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State News: Eureka Springs School Board Adopts Schedule for 2022-23 (02/17/22)

Students in the Eureka Springs School District will begin a new school year on August 22, but won’t be released until June of next year, according to the district’s schedule for the 2022-23 school year.

The district council approved the schedule at Monday’s regular meeting.

“It’s a traditional, standard schedule,” Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said. “It takes another two weeks at Christmas and a week off at Thanksgiving. We will have Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day and those normal holidays.

The late start date has caused at least one school district in the county to consider changing its schedule in an effort to end the school year before Memorial Day. Green Forest School District Superintendent Matt Summers said the new state-imposed schedule for a five-day week isn’t necessarily right for his district and that he and his staff are investigating whether a four-day week might be a better fit.

Pruitt said that wasn’t a problem in Eureka Springs.

“Everyone thinks you have to get out by Memorial Day or whatever, and I don’t know,” Pruitt said. “I remember a long time ago, we always went out on June 1st.”

The new schedule, Pruitt said, will still provide plenty of breaks for students and staff, even if it stretches a bit, and allows the district its normal number of AMI, or “Alternative Method of Teaching” days.

“We’ll have them if we need them,” Pruitt said. “In northwest Arkansas, AMI days are very critical in my opinion. We need to have that accessibility.

These 10 AMI days allow districts to close campus — usually for weather reasons, but also, at least for the past two years, for public health concerns — while still providing students with instruction and avoiding the adding make-up days to the calendar.

Last month, the district used a number of AMI days in response to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases and associated quarantines among students and staff. The district also reverted to a policy requiring masks on campus, a policy it reversed last week as case numbers began to decline.

Pruitt said the number of active COVID-19 cases on campus has dropped to zero.

“It’s good,” Pruitt said. “We have no COVID cases, no quarantines. It’s always good news. I hope we can stay like this for a while.

In addition to hearing a COVID update, the board also updated its pandemic policy, making what Pruitt described as changes allowing for a faster response to changing conditions.

“We were kind of following the [Arkansas Center for Health Improvement] website,” Pruitt said. “It’s slow to update. We took that away, and now we just have it strictly that we don’t wear a mask anytime we’re below 3% positive cases. If we go back above 3%, we go back to masks. We will do this for periods of two weeks.

Pruitt said the district will rely on its own data to make its decision.

“The ACHI data comes from us, anyway,” Pruitt said. “Their data comes from schools and health clinics and places like that. Our point of contact is our school nurse and she has to monitor all of this. This is the fastest way for us to react.

In other matters, the board approved its proposed budget for the 2022-2023 school year, revised its school choice policy, increased the salary of unlicensed long-term substitutes to $150 a day and discussed the district’s wellness policy.

“The one we had here was getting a little old,” Pruitt said. “The school board association has a model policy, so we took information from that and we took information from the child nutrition unit and we just updated our own policy and updated it.”

Pruitt said the school’s wellness committee, made up of the director of child nutrition, the cafeteria manager, staff members, parents and students, meets regularly to discuss nutritional needs, the wellness and things the district can do to promote wellness.

The board also heard the district’s plans to host the next 2A-West Regional High School Basketball Tournament, which is scheduled for Feb. 23-26.

“We’re going to have a lot of people coming and staying in motels and eating in restaurants,” Pruitt said. “I’m glad we have this opportunity to help people with business at this normally slow time of year.”

The board accepted the resignation of paraprofessional Diane Bruns and voted to extend Pruitt’s contract for another year, while giving her a 5% raise.