Eureka Springs schools buy supplies for all students

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Eureka Springs School Board is erasing a source of stress for local families.

Superintendent Bryan Pruitt confirmed July 13 that the board will be purchasing supplies for every student in the district for the 2018-19 school year, saying each principal will receive $7,500 for their building. That’s $22,500 for school supplies, Pruitt said, in addition to the $500 teachers receive by law for classroom supplies.

“What I told our principals is to make sure teachers know this is for the students,” Pruitt said. “The money is for what would be required of the students to bring.”

The teachers are looking at purchasing supplies in bulk, Pruitt said, to save money and ensure there’s enough for everyone. He said the supplies will be purchased by semester and handed out by need.

“We’ll give them to the students as needed throughout the year,” Pruitt said. “I’m tickled to do this for our community, students and parents.”

He hopes the students will take care of the supplies they are given, Pruitt said.

“I just want our students to be good stewards of that and not be wasteful,” Pruitt said. “I don’t want to see pencils broken and thrown down. I don’t want any of that. I want us to be resourceful and be good stewards of that money.”

After all, Pruitt said, the parents have paid for the supplies by paying their taxes. He explained how the district’s finances work, saying the district is one of seven in Arkansas that are self-funded. That means the district doesn’t receive foundation or partnership funds, Pruitt said.

“Our local assessed value is high enough that we generate the funds to support ourselves,” Pruitt said. “That being said, we have to pay for everything. Sometimes, it looks like we’ve got a big pot of money in our building fund, but we also have a $12.2 million loan on the high school we have to pay for.”

Pruitt said the money for the supplies will come out of the regular district funds, saying the school had extra money after receiving more than 100 percent of its tax rate last year. That’s unusual, Pruitt said, and he’s excited to take advantage of it. He’s wanted the district to pay for school supplies, Pruitt said, from the day he started working in Eureka Springs.

“It’s kind of trial and error this first time, and $7,500 was the magic number we came up with to try it out. Hopefully, that will be enough,” Pruitt said. “The teachers still get their classroom supplies they normally buy for group projects, so I think it’s going to be a win-win for everybody.”

In the Eureka Springs School District, 62 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Pruitt said he hopes offering free school supplies will help those families meet other needs, like new clothes or shoes.

“It’s going to be a lot of people we can help. If we can help this way, maybe it will relieve parents,” Pruitt said.

High school principal David Gilmore said parents voiced concerns last year about the amount of school supplies needs.

“It seems like each year the students need more supplies, and the prices go up, too,” Gilmore said. “It can be costly, especially for parents who have three or four children enrolled in the school district. For some, supplies can cost upwards of $500.”

Gilmore continued, “This is going to have a big impact on our students. We’ve seen a lot of positive feedback online. Parents are very thankful for it. I think this will help improve our district’s relationship with parents and families.”

Pruitt thanked parents for all they do to get students ready for school.

“This is our way to return that favor to them,” Pruitt said. “Hopefully, this will be a win-win for our students and their families, and we can continue to do this next year.”

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