Superintendents look ahead to growth, opportunities in spring semester
By Kelby Newcomb
Carroll County schools are back in session, working to prepare students for exams and provide new opportunities in the spring semester of the 2018-19 school year.
Superintendent Owen Powell said the Berryville School District had a successful fall semester, highlighting the opening of the Connect 4 program and the district’s construction project as some of the most exciting things to have happened.
“It’s hard to believe the first semester has already gone by,” Powell said. “We’ve had a lot of exciting things going on in our district. We broke ground on the new high school, and they are wrapping up on the sports complex. There’s some cleanup that still has to be done.”
He said progress will continue to be made on the high school and middle school construction throughout the spring semester.
“They’ve been working on groundwork for the middle school cafeteria and the high school,” Powell said. “We’ve been doing good with the schedule. The weather has slowed us down recently.”
Superintendent Matt Summers said growth has been on the mind of the Green Forest School District this year.
“Our numbers are higher than they’ve ever been,” he said, “not only here at the school but also in the city.”
Many grade levels are at or above capacity, Summers said, and the district is currently advertising for a kindergarten teacher for that reason.
“We have some hot grades in the elementary and middle school right now,” he said. “Growth is a big part of that. We’re not making that out to be a negative. It’s a positive, but sometimes there are growing pains that go along with that.”
Summers said the district looks at kindergarten pre-enrollment each year to get an idea of what the class size will be. He said kindergarten can have only 20 students in a class, and the district currently has about 21 to 22 students in each.
“There are waivers you can get from the state, but we as a district will not look at waivers,” he said. “We want to make sure K-3 in particular has every advantage in the world because that’s language acquisition, spelling, reading, writing and the fundamentals of math.”
For fundamental subjects at the elementary and middle school levels, Summers said the district believes it is crucial to follow the student-to-teacher ratio guidelines.
“If it’s math or English, we’re going to stick to that and bring in an extra staff member and find a classroom,” he said, “because those are the building blocks of education.”
Summers continued, “We’re advertising for a kindergarten teacher because we are over the requirements there. We’re making an impact in the elementary, and we have several other grade levels that are not far behind.”
The district has gone up approximately 20 students since October, he said.
“It wasn’t at the beginning of the year. It’s been an ongoing process all year long,” Summers said. “It has been manageable. We’re not at an impasse in regards to classrooms or teachers or cafeterias or buses. There are hiccups along the way that have to be addressed, so we’re staying the course and seeing where we are with the growth issue right now.”
Another exciting thing coming up for the spring semester, he said, is the district’s bid to host the Class 3A State Track Meet.
“The bidding process takes place this week,” Summers said. “The meeting will be this Thursday, Jan. 10, in Little Rock. We’re not certain if we’ll get that nomination or not, but we are hoping to host that in the spring.”
Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the Eureka Springs School District began working on several new projects in the fall semester and hopes to continue providing new opportunities to its students in the spring semester.
“We have been working on a new outdoor classroom, and we’re going to be using that K-12,” he said. “It’s right behind the middle school overlooking the high school. Our high school principal, David Gilmore, was instrumental in getting that started. They’re working on the roof today on that building.”
The district also introduced a new reading curriculum, the American Reading Company (ARC) Literacy Lab curriculum, for grades K-8 this fall, Pruitt said, and staff members are eager to see how students will perform on the ACT Aspire exams this spring.
“We think we’ve been pushing reading really hard,” he said, “and there’s a lot of accountability. The kids are leaders in that process. We’re really excited and anticipating some growth there with our students.”
Pruitt continued, “Everyone has been working hard and getting students prepared for those ACT Aspire scores. Those are very important, but they’re not the most important thing students do here.”
Having a variety of opportunities for students is one of the district’s biggest goals, he said.
“We have a few kids in the new C4 program, and our students using the new greenhouse have provided lettuce for the lunchrooms and cafeterias,” Pruitt said. “Our athletic teams are all doing well. We’ve been doing ‘Leader and Me’ at the elementary, and that’s been inspirational to our kids. They’re not kids or students, they’re leaders.”
He continued, “We want those opportunities available for our kids, so any time we can explore and expand in those areas to help our kids we will. It used to be for a long time that everything was about college-bound students. In Eureka Springs, we do have a lot of kids who go on to college, but even for the ones who don’t, we want them to be prepared to be successful.”
Having different opportunities ensures that students will have more diversified backgrounds, Pruitt said, for whatever path they take after high school.
He said the district is also working with architects to make some renovations on the elementary school.
“We’ve got some plans done, and we’re meeting this week,” he said, “to get that process up for bids. The corridor area when you walk into the elementary is a little bit dated, and we’d like to make it even more education-friendly than it is now. We want to give it a brighter finish and give the kids something to be proud of.”