Eureka Springs School Board presents annual report to the public

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

By Haley Schichtl

The Eureka Springs School Board presented its annual report to the public before its regular school board meeting Monday, Oct. 12.

Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said that the school, in cooperation with the city of Eureka Springs, is receiving this year’s Trendsetter Award from the Arkansas Municipal League.

“We’re part of that because we’re offering a Zoom classroom for our CTE [career and technical education] classes,” he said.

Pruitt said that of the district’s 574 students, 414 are on-site and 160 are virtual.

“That is changing each day. We have students that come back, maybe because of internet problems or they decide virtual isn’t what they want,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt recognized some of the school’s teams that have won competitions. The chess team won a state competition, the EAST CyberPatriot team won second in state, quiz bowl won fourth in the region and a couple of students won first and third place on a county democracy essay contest.

Pruitt said phase two of the elementary building remodel is almost finished.

“They have to finish putting in the stage door. That was delayed because of COVID,” Pruitt said. “But other than that, phase two has been completed.”

He said the project on the track and soccer field is also in progress — an irrigation system is currently being installed. He also said the outdoor classroom is almost finished and the new bus that was purchased last month has arrived. The school is now applying for a T-Mobile grant for wi-fi hotspots.

Pruitt said that this year, tickets to basketball games will not be sold at the game so that only a limited number of attendees will be allowed.

“Because of social distancing this year, we will have online ticket purchasing,” Pruitt said. “You’ll have to have those purchased before you show up.”

He said the school will be hiring a full-time mental health professional through the AWARE project grant.

“Last year, they sent a mental health therapist one day a week. This year, they’re expanding that,” he said.

He said the state has started a new program called ENGAGE Arkansas to locate and engage students that are not coming to school or participating in virtual school.

“There’s a lot of schools that have unaccounted-for students. Here in the district, we’re down about 30 or 40 students,” Pruitt said. “We’re making history this year. Education is never going to be the same.”

After Pruitt updated the board, gifted and talented coordinator Shelly Martin spoke about the district’s GT program.

She said there are 47 students in the program. She said they are looking at starting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes for elementary students.

“I was able to find a gifted online learning program, so we have purchased that for K-8,” Martin said. “It identifies them by their learning styles and interests.”

She said the high school students are using ACT Tessera, which is also an online personality test to help students find out what kind of career path they might fit into.

“They’re putting off all competitions for quiz bowl and chess … until after the first of the year,” she said. “Because they’re still working out how to do virtual competitions. High school kids have been doing it but the younger ones have not.”

She also mentioned that last year’s Advanced Placement tests were all taken online, and the scores were close to the school’s average over the last several years.

Special education teacher Gail Hunter then gave an update on how the school’s program is doing according to a letter from Arkansas Department of Education’s (ADE) special education associate director, Matt Sewell.

Hunter said that the school is in compliance with ADE’s standards and received a four, which is the highest score possible.

The school board then began its regular meeting.

The board approved the Carroll County Educational Cooperative Hazard Mitigation Plan.

“This is part of the requirements to stay up to date on the FEMA program,” Pruitt said. “It keeps us in line for getting a FEMA safe room.”

In other business, the board approved state COVID-19 emergency paid leave policies. The school also got 10 federal paid leave days, for a total of 20 days.

“It provides an additional 10 days for any employee tested positive for COVID or experiencing symptoms,” Pruitt said. “It is paid for by the CARES Act.”

The board then approved a stipend of $2,500 for the COVID-19 point of contact, Meghan Wolfinbarger.

“She’s done a great job for us,” Pruitt said. “She is doing state reports each week on students and staff members that have possibly been exposed.”

Also at the meeting, the board approved an agreement with The Barnabas Team to find a company to provide solar energy to the district.

“They’ll do a request for a proposal, come in and evaluate that proposal for our district and make sure it’s one that is economically advantageous for us,” Pruitt said. “If we accept an agreement with one of the energy companies, The Barnabas Team will get 3 cents on a watt.”

The school board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, in the middle school cafeteria.

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