Teachers in the Vilonia School District said due to the cramped quarters on their campuses, they must be creative, this year, with scheduling and "flip-flopping" classrooms.
Principals spoke Monday night at the Board of Education meeting sharing messages of increasing student enrollment, a lack of room to expand classrooms and measures being implemented to accommodate students.
"When you are desperate, you start looking at every crook and cranny—looking where you can hold another class," said Susan Loyd, principal at Vilonia Primary, addressing the board. The preliminary enrollment for that campus, Monday, was at nearly 600 students—about 20 additional students over last year’s count. An additional teacher, Loyd said, has been hired. Art classes and music classes will be sharing space in a trailer detached from the school, she said. Also, she said, some schedules have been revamped. As well, the lunch schedule has been changed 10 minutes to help accommodate with congestion.
"We are really desperate," she added, regarding class space. "But, it’s a good problem to have."
At the elementary, principal Mark Crowder revealed a similar situation. "There is no available space other than a closet here or there," he added. "But, we are making do."
"Our building is full this year," said Cathy Riggins, principal at the Middle School. The latest enrollment numbers, she said, reflect an enrollment of nearly 800 students. "We are utilizing everything and doubling up when we possible."
Principal Rick Kelley said the enrollment on the junior high campus is at nearly 500 students. While the preliminary numbers show an increase in enrollment, Kelley said he has extra classrooms. Rather than sitting empty, however, he said those classrooms are being utilized by the high school.
Numbers up at the high school also, Andy Ashley painted a picture of teachers sharing classrooms as well as campuses.
"Six teachers are Nomads," he said. "It would be great if each teacher could have their own classroom."
Superintendent Dr. Frank Mitchell and the board offered words of encouragement. Mitchell said he is hopeful voters will approve a proposed one-mill increase that is to be on the Sept. 18, ballot alleviating the problem.
"It’s only what we have to have," he said. "We aren’t asking for a penny more."
If approved, he said, an intermediate school, estimated to cost $14.5 million, will be built on Mt. Olive Rd. for grades 4-6. In addition, the funding will go toward the district’s portion of funding for a safe room for the Vilonia Jr. High/Sr. High campus and a safe room for the Vilonia Primary School. The intermediate school will serve students in grades 4-6. Both, the elementary and primary will serve students K-3. The middle school will accommodate students 7-8 and the high school will be open to grades 9-12.
It is estimated the intermediate school would accommodate about 900 students and would open the doors with an estimated 750 in attendance, Mitchell said.
If voters approve the proposal, the current Vilonia millage would increase from 38.9 to 39.9 mills. The last increase approved by voters was in 2004 for 5.5 mills, which paid for the construction of the middle school, Mitchell added.
Informational signs, flyers and posters will be placed around the educating voters and encouraging them to cast their ballot, Mitchell said. A one-mill increase, or a tenth of one cent, which applies to real and personal property would amount to a yearly increase of about $20 on a $100,000 house.
Should the proposed millage fail to pass, Mitchell said, the district would lose $9 million in state funds that has been awarded for the building of the school as well as "we might have to look at a lot of portable buildings."
In other business, the board:
• Approved contracting with IBC-Hostess for hamburger and hot dog buns.
• Approved an application to permit the Stephens Inc. to reissue bonds that will give the school district a net amount of about $7 million. Also, the board approved the Stephens Inc. as the fiscal agent on the project.
• Approved contracting with Printing Paper Inc. for 840 cases of paper at $2,450.
• Defined and adjusted the pay schedule for the technology department.
• Discussed an asphalt/parking area project. Loyd Kelley, maintenance supervisor, presented several projects including some asphalt patching, graveling, as well as resurfacing with asphalt. There are plans, he said, to complete a couple of "major projects," including widening the loop at the Middle School providing more parking as well as expanding parking behind the elementary cafeteria and on the back road, that leads to the Big Room, and that goes behind the Primary. Some of the projects were approved to be done by the school. Others will require going out to bid procedures.