Green Forest schools see surprise increase in enrollment
Student enrollment in the Green Forest School District grew by 20 in the past month, rising from 1,373 on Oct. 1 to 1,393 in November, an increase that has left district superintendent Matt Summers with a few questions.
“That kind of raised some eyebrows,” said Summers, who delivered the enrollment update to the school district board during its meeting on Nov. 15. “If they come and enroll, we put them in. The question is, where are they living?”
Summers noted that two apartment complexes currently under construction in Green Forest aren’t expected to be completed until closer to summer.
“We do expect big growth then, but just in the middle of the year — 20 in one month — that’s an unexpected increase,” Summers said.
In other business, the board approved the purchase of 65 Dell laptop computers for district teachers.
“This is an effort to keep our teachers in new or upgraded equipment,” Summers said, adding that $125,000 of the money spent will come from the district’s portion of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, while an additional $8,400 will come from an Emergency Connectivity Fund grant the district received this year.
The district’s ESSER money was obtained by the district as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act, while the Emergency Connectivity Fund is a $7.17 billion program intended to help schools and libraries provide the tools and services their communities need for remote learning during the COVID-19 emergency period.
The board also approved the purchase of two new 72-passenger buses for $94,945 each, a total of $189,890. Summers said the decision to authorize the purchase in November was a bit of a departure from the norm for the district.
“We traditionally approve buses for the next school year in February or March,” Summers said. “We’re being told now we need to do so immediately because of supply and demand.”
Summers said the district anticipates the buses will arrive in August, and added that the cost for the vehicles will come out of next year’s budget.
The board also returned to discussion of resurfacing the track at the high school athletic complex. The project was addressed last month, but Powell asked the board to hold off on making a decision while he gathered more information.
“It’s not bad at this point,” Summers said of the track, “but it’s been 12 years since it was built. They’re supposed to be [resurfaced] every seven, so we’ve been real fortunate that it’s held up as well as it has.”
The board voted to hire Victory Tracks, a Dallas-based sports track design and installation company, to take on the $87,000 project. Summers said any work on the project is not expected to take place until the summer months.
“We probably won’t get on that immediately,” Summers said, “but we wanted to get the price locked. We’re being told that prices are going to spike after January and the existing materials that he has is the price guarantee, whether they do it in June or July. We wanted to go ahead and get it approved.”
Money for the project will come from the district’s building fund.
The board also approved a bid from PowerLift Foundation Repair in Rogers to repair foundation damage at the high school for a price of $73,300.
“Part of that is a warranty from existing pillars they had installed a few years ago,” Summers said.
In other action, the board voted against allowing North Arkansas College to use school facilities during the day for its adult education programs, something the district has previously allowed only in the evenings.
“In the past, we’ve allowed them to use our building, but it was always like at 6 p.m.,” Summers said. “They wanted to get that started earlier in the day, which means we would have had adults in the building during the day, and obviously, that could create a situation.”
Summers said the potential security risks, in addition to space limitations and other factors weighed heavily on the board’s decision.
“I will be working with them to find another location in the community, but it will not be at the Green Forest school,” Summers said.
In regard to possible rezoning for the school district based on the 2020 Census, the board was presented with two options — one that included changes inside the city limits and a second that stayed fairly close to existing zones. Summers said the board felt the second option was a better choice.
“The board voted to approve the plan that’s closest to the existing lines as to not cause confusion in the zones and all of that,” Summers said. “There were a few changes, but they were very minor changes.”
In personnel matters, the board accepted the resignations of Linda Johnson and Scott Silva and added Kamri Rogers as a junior cheer coach volunteer. The board also approved the hiring of Marissa Crawford as a food service employee.
The Green Forest board’s next meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m., Monday, Dec. 13, in the Green Forest High School library, a change from the typical schedule. The board’s regular meeting date would have been Dec. 20, which falls during the school’s holiday break.