School board updates facilities master plan

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Eureka Springs School District board approved a trio of new planned projects as part of the district’s new facilities master plan during Monday’s meeting.

According to superintendent Bryan Pruitt, the planned projects include a storm shelter, a cafeteria building that will serve the elementary and middle schools and a big upgrade to the HVAC systems in those buildings.

“Your master plan, you have to keep it updated each year,” Pruitt said. “This time, we had three things of interest. One is — and we’re doing this in conjunction with all the Carroll County schools, Berryville and Green Forest included — is a [Federal Emergency Management Agency-approved] safe shelter. We keep that in our plan, because if FEMA ever releases the funds, they pay 75 percent of it. Hopefully, we’ll get to build a safe shelter here on our campus.”

Bryan Pruitt

Pruitt said plans for the proposed shelter call for it to be located no more than five minutes away for the majority of students on campus and that it must be built to withstand winds up to 250 mph. In addition, such a building would also be available for other uses.

“A lot of schools use them, alternatively, they use them for like PE and things like that,” Pruitt said. “They put basketball courts in them or whatever. Basically, they’re big, freestanding buildings that can withstand those winds. Then, not only does the school use it, but after hours, like on nights and weekends, if the tornado siren goes off, the doors will automatically unlock and the general public can use them as well.”

Another high priority for the district is a planned upgrade to the district’s HVAC system. Pruitt said the approximately $500,000 project would be funded by money the district received through the American Rescue Plan for COVID-related expenditures.

“It’ll have the new filtration systems, increased air flow, all that kind of stuff,” Pruitt said.

The new kitchen and cafeteria building, which Pruitt said is likely to be the most expensive project for the district, will eliminate the need for staff to transport food from the existing kitchen in the elementary school to the middle school, something that can be problematic in bad weather.

“We have a kitchen that is in the elementary school, that prepares meals for both middle school and elementary, and we have a cafeteria in elementary school, and then we basically we truck the food from the kitchen over to middle school and then we have this old little bitty warming kitchen to keep things warm,” Pruitt said. “[The kitchen] in the elementary is very outdated — it’s basically out of code — so we’re better off to build a new kitchen with the new units and more space, more storage, things like that.”

The new building, Pruitt said, would feature a single kitchen with cafeterias on either side and would be located between the elementary and middle schools.

“That way, elementary kids will walk in and have lunch on one side, and on the side of the kitchen, there’d be another cafeteria that middle school kids would walk in,” Pruitt said. “That way, we can have our kitchen serving lines on both sides.”

Pruitt said the district is already meeting with architects and working on designs for the building, which is expected to cost at least $2 million.

In other business, the board voted to adopt a resolution providing a one-time payment of $300 to contracted staff members who have chosen to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

“That’s from the American Recovery Plan funds from the feds, not local funds or anything,” Pruitt said. “The governor, the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education, they tell us the best thing you can do is encourage vaccinations. However, we don’t judge. If somebody has a health reason or any other reason not to get the vaccine, that’s not questioned. It’s just, ‘Hey, here’s an incentive if you want to take advantage of it. If you don’t, then that’s at your discretion.’ ”

Pruitt said more than 70 percent of the district’s staff has already been vaccinated and that a vaccination clinic held last week drew quite a few people.

“We’re not pushing it,” Pruitt said. “We’re just making it available. If people want to take it, if it’s your best chance to keep you healthy and safe, then we’re glad to offer it.”

Board members also were reminded to pick up their petitions for the upcoming regular school board election scheduled for May 24. The signed petitions must be turned in between Feb. 22 and March 1.

Five seats will be up for grabs this year after the redistricting process that took place in regard to the 2020 census. The board’s two at-large seats were not affected.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 14, in the middle school cafeteria.

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