State safety specialist finds many positives in Eureka Springs Schools

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 ~ Updated 1:19 PM
Middle school staff members stand in front of the Eureka Springs Elementary School to monitor middle school students heading toward the buses at the end of the day. Students exit from the doors between the middle and elementary schools, which are monitored by Principal Linda Trice and staff. Parents coming into the school to pick up their children are required to sign in to the office. Kathryn Lucariello / CCN

EUREKA SPRINGS -- At its Feb. 18 meeting the Eureka Springs School Board began -- and will continue -- discussion of a comprehensive, 24-page, school safety audit report draft document.

The document was prepared by Johnny R. Purvis, Ed.D, of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Purvis coordinates the Safe, Orderly and Productive School Institute.

He came for a two-day visit, at the request of Superintendent Wayne Carr, to conduct an audit of all aspects of school safety and to assist the school in developing a crisis management plan. The plan is to include the school district as a whole, as well individual plans for each school.

"It is deemed very critical that the school district's crisis plan place emphasis on prevention, intervention-response, and follow-up as pertaining to the various items within the plan," Purvis wrote.

He also called it "vital" for the school district to be consistent in its policies that are placed in student-parent handbooks and to assure that the policies are adhered to and enforced "consistently by the administration, faculty, staff, and school board."

The first section of Purvis' report lists 23 "commendations" for what is right in the school environment. The first was a recognition of the students themselves.

"Students in all of the schools were very well behaved, especially during class changes in the corridors and during lunch," he wrote. "Yes, they talked during these transitions, but such talk was not loud and was not disorderly."

He went on to praise the cleanliness of corridors, classrooms, libraries, cafeterias and offices areas, and congratulated custodial staff, teachers and administrators on their efforts. He noted that students also assist with this effort.

He was also impressed with the schools' pride in their students: "Lots and lots of student work and accomplishments were displayed in all schools, especially in the elementary and middle schools."

He also praised lighting, signage and busing operations.

Purvis reviewed student handbooks and recommended there be consistency among all three schools with student management policies.

He also suggested several items be changed to reflect current state and federal laws and current accepted practices, such as the bullying policy, the use of cell phones in school and procedures related to student records.

He also addressed physical plant safety features like fencing and playground surfacing.

He suggested the district needs to develop policies in the following areas: loss and theft of property; gum chewing and eats; gambling and games of chance; robbery and extortion; restroom regulations; the grading scale; cafeteria student conduct; library student conduct; cheating, copyright violations and plagiarism; and parents and school visitors signing in and out.

Two of the biggest concerns Purvis mentioned in the schools overall were locking doors of classrooms and multiple outside entrances and better monitoring of who is entering and leaving school premises.

"We've talked for over a year about locking doors," Carr said.

Elementary school Principal Clare Lesieur said, "The few crisis situations we've had are non-custodial parents coming in and getting kids."

She said these issues are being worked on.

"We have a volunteer committee of teachers looking at making the schools safer," she said. "We have been locking doors, and parents have had to come through the front door. We are looking at our dismissal procedure."

Carr said he recommends all outside doors be locked after 8 a.m. except the front door. This is especially critical between the middle and elementary schools, which are laid out end-to-end. Purvis recommended immediate action be taken on this security issue and made several suggestions.

His report also included specific sections on each of the schools and noted a couple instances where students at the both the elementary and middle schools had left the buildings unsupervised during the school day.

The current high school on Kingshighway he called a "school safety-security nightmare!" and listed numerous reasons why. It was these reasons the school board used in its campaign to get the millage vote passed in order to build a new high school behind the middle school.

High school principal Jack Golden making any major changes at the high school could be costly. In two years, there will be a new high school, with security measures factored into the design.

Purvis' draft report ends with identifying 49 possible "crises" to be included in the plan and how to address and prepare for them.

He called the audit a "working document" and said he expects it will be "reviewed, dissected, analyzed, debated, evaluated, revised and above all, acted upon in some manner or form...."

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