PES construction ahead of schedule

By Staff, 04/16/21 9:29 AM

PRESCOTT – Construction in the new Prescott Elementary School is a month ahead of schedule.

Robert Poole, superintendent of the Prescott School District, gave the Prescott School Board an update on the project at its April meeting Thursday night. He pointed out the weather has a lot to do with construction, and if conditions remain favorable two more slabs will be poured soon and the building will start to come up. He informed the panel he’s met with CR Crawford Construction about the back parking lot and the road behind the football field. The road portion of the project will be rebid to get the price in line with the budget.

If all goes well, he said, students will be in the new building by the start of the 2022 school year.

The board also approved updates from the Arkansas School Board Association for 2021-22. Poole said with the legislature still in session more laws will be passed. Some of the policies approved by the board include: anyone who files a false worker’s compensation claim could be terminated; and prohibiting school employees from posting items on social media that aren’t school related during the work day.

The board approved transferring a student from the Prescott district to Hope. Poole said the student hasn’t been attending school in Prescott, but has been at Spring Hill and Garrett Memorial, so the district isn’t losing a student in this instance.

Board President JoBeth Glass said she had a problem as Hope doesn’t allow students to transfer to Prescott.

Shannon Henderson talked about virtual education, saying there were problems because a lot of students weren’t doing their work. Teachers, she said, called weekly and made home visits but were always given some excuse as to why the work wasn’t done. She told the board the district even got the court system involved, adding there were parents who called saying their children need to be around others socially. Additionally, she said, equipment was lost or broken.

Poole agreed there were issues with virtual education, saying students weren’t getting what they need as they would if they were in class. Because of this, there will be no virtual education offered for the 2021-22 school year, unless there’s an emergency. He said things are in place for virtual education if the need arises.

The board approved the purchase of seven new air conditioned buses using education stimulus money from the federal government. Poole said the first found of funding was used to purchase medical supplies for the COVID crisis, and the second round can be uses to improve air quality on buses. He told the board the district still has $300,000 to $400,000 from the second round of stimulus money so the district won’t be out anything for the purchase, adding a third round of stimulus money has also been received.

The buses, he said, could be bought through state purchasing so no bidding will be required.

Board member Reed Koger suggested purchasing three buses next year and four the year after so all seven don’t wear out at the same time.

Poole said the last time the district bought buses, it bought five and the transportation department did a good job of rotating them so they didn’t all wear out simultaneously. There will be no trade ins with this purchase and the old buses will be used for parts. The new buses will cost about $90,000 each.

The board also approved mandated salary requirements, giving all certified personnel an $1,100 raise next year, with all others getting pay increases based on which step they’re in. This will raise the base pay for those with a master’s degree to $34,900 as a starting salary. Another $1,100 will be given next year to get teachers up to the base $36,000 as mandated by the state. This is the third year of a four-year plan the state put in place. While the state will help cover the cost of the raises this year and next, it will be up to the district after that.

A total of 945 students are enrolled in the PSD, with 356 in PES, 301 in Prescott Junior High School and 288 in Prescott High School.

The board also voted to make masks optional  in the district. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has removed mask restrictions and left it up to the districts to decide what they wanted to do. Poole pointed out there are still guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control schools have to follow, adding the school will still observe social distancing.