Committee working to advocate ES Schools bond passage

Friday, December 4, 2009

EUREKA SPRINGS -- The Eureka Springs School Board recently listened to reports from a planning committee of 22 people working to advocate passage of a bond issue on Feb. 9, 2010, to build a new high school, and also heard pleas from representatives of the arts community that the new high school reflect the unique artist culture of Eureka Springs.

At the school board meeting Nov. 19, Ken Brown of Holiday Island, co-chair of the planning and promotion committee for the proposed new high school, said the committee is composed of 22 people who are committed to spending 60 to 80 hours of work each to advocate passage of the $10.6-million bond issue to build a new high school on a 34-acre site on Lake Lucerne Road near the Eureka Springs Middle School.

Brown said the committee is meeting at 6 p.m. every Thursday night (except when the school board is meeting) at the high school cafeteria. The public is invited to attend the meetings that last two hours. Four subcommittees have been formed: outreach; promotion; media; and speakers' bureau.

60-day window

Brown said considering the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, there are only 60 workdays left to advocate passage of the bond issue.

"That is not a lot of time," Brown said. "We want to make it a very positive campaign."

Brown said that it is important to make sure to remind people to vote close to the date of the election. He asked board members to each call five people the day before the election and remind them to vote. It is also important for people to register to vote by Jan. 9.

Student voters

For some high school students, the election Feb. 9 will be the first time they vote. Twenty-four high school students registered to vote recently. Those are the number of seniors in the class of 47 who are 18, and old enough to vote.

John Murphy, co-chair of planning and promotion committee, Holiday Island, said they have been meeting one-on-one with local government and civic leaders. All local banks have agreed to put up displays of the site plan. Promotional materials are being developed, and informational articles are planned.

Murphy said the new high school would represent the biggest construction project in town for many years.

"It will add jobs and economic activity," he said.

Murphy said the biggest problem with this type of election is passivity -- people just not bothering to come out to vote. The last time there was a school bond election, in September 2003, only 208 people came out to vote out of 5,610 registered voters, so getting people out to vote is critical.

Arts benefit education

Doug Stowe, an active advocate of hands-on learning, spoke to the board to express support of the arts in the new school.

"Arts help children learn how to make qualitative judgments," Stowe said. "The arts show there can be more than one answer. There are many ways to interpret the world."

Stowe said Eureka Springs is one of the top 25 arts destinations in the country.

"We should have a school that reflects that," he said. "The arts community is interested in mentoring in the school. The schools could do a partnership with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts (ESSA) in metalworking, for example."

Lyla Allison gave the school board members a voucher for a free metalworking class with her at ESSA.

Speakers also advocated a place for the performance arts instead of just a cafeteria turned into an auditorium. Speech and drama teacher Jerry RunnerSmith said while no one wants to compromise on academic areas, athletics and art, he hopes there will also be consideration for performing arts.

"The challenge is to do something creative with the space," Smith said. "Can we do something that does all these things?"

Christopher Fischer, chairperson of the publicity committee, also advocated performing arts space.

A pivotal decision

"Eureka is at a crossroads with this project," he said. "The new high school should reflect the diversity of artistic and cultural assets of the city. School and art events could facilitate visitorship to our area."

School Board President Rusty Windle said he has been meeting with foundations that might provide funding for enhancements such as a performing arts center, which could also be used for community activities.

"If you know someone with connections to get us in the door with a foundation, please let me know," Windle said. "We won't know until we ask, but we may be able to do more than what some people have dreamed."

Architect Laura Morrison, of Morrison Architecture, said she appreciated the input from people coming to speak about their vision for the new high school.

"I would love for this building to reflect the type of art community we have," Morrison said. "We need input in the process."

Up, or out?

Michael Boardman, who does excavation work for a living, recommended the high school be built more up and down rather than out to save on the cost of moving dirt, with long-term savings on heating, air conditioning and roofing costs.

"There is a lot of earthmoving on this project," Boardman said. "I hate to see too much money spent to build in spite of location instead of taking advantage of the location."

Morrison said the current plans optimize passive solar, and have few west facing windows that can be too hot in the warm weather.

"We have considered basic green building design," Morrison said. "You are right. We are going to move a lot of dirt. But we will try to stay with as much a natural landscape as we can."

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