Conway Board of Education members received updates on the progress of two district safe rooms during its regular June meeting.

Jason Lawrenece, director of support services, gave a report on the $3.5 million projects occurring at Bob and Betty Courtway Middle School and Carl Stuart Middle School.

“They are essentially finished … essentially means they’re not finished,” he said, the room laughing.

Lawrence said in regards to Courtway, they are waiting on the mass notification system, which is back ordered, to come in.

“All it is is putting those in there and hooking it up them up to the computer so they can communicate to the city, so, when the sirens go off, those doors will open,” he said. “That’s all that’s needed at Bob Courtway.”

Conway School District safe rooms:

• 11 total plus the two middle school additions when finished.

• Open when city sirens go off. Reminder doors are heavy.

• Elementary shelters — which hold between 550-600 students — and middle school safe rooms — hold between 900-1,025 students — are each different but rated to hold capacity of children and students in each building.

• Can be used when school isn’t in session, which is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• Firearms prohibited.

• No pets allowed.

“If you haven’t noticed, there’s been a little bit of rain this year,” Lawrence said. “That’s a good thing and bad thing. Bad thing is it’s put us a little bit behind on the site work [at Carl Stuart]. Good thing is we know where all the holes are and what we need to fix.”

Right now, he said, they will work around the building to usher excess water elsewhere and get the area cleaned up to finish, truly only a couple weeks behind.

“We should have the certificate of occupancy by the first of July,” the director told the board.

When finished, the district will have safe rooms at every school — 13 total — with the exception of the junior high and high school.

Every summer, Conway School District renovates one school. This year, Theodore Jones Elementary was up.

Lawrence also gave board members a progress report for that project as well.

He said the day after Conway Public Schools let out for the summer vacation, crews began at the elementary.

“They worked [very] hard,” Lawrence said. “We got about three days ahead, simply because of the work we did in those six, seven hours.”

Lawrence introduced Bruce Harrell, district maintenance supervisor, who in turn, recognized several of his staff and other district employees who worked hard to make that possible.

“Each one of these individuals have done exceptional work, especially with all the renovation project stuff going on at Theodore Jones,” Harrell said. “Not only in times like that when it’s a group effort to get everything done, but in their individual capacities everyday with their jobs that they perform. Always above and beyond.”

He said they are about 80% done with painting and about 25% done with flooring and ceiling work and have also seen progress on the fire alarm upgrades.

“With every other detail that’s being addressed, at the same [time] we’re working outside, we’re working inside to try and get that thing back to Dr. [Tammy] Woosley and her staff and quick as possible so that they have every opportunity to get everything back in order so when the students come they’re ready to go,” Harrell told the board.

Conway Superintendent Greg Murry asked Harrell to describe the work day to the room.

“You should have seen it, board,” Murry said. “It’s just an amazing thing.”

Harrell said the first part of the process was to “rally the troops,” which came to about 125 people on site that day. Then, they divided into groups and began on both sides of the building moving items outside into storage containers

“[Workers] come in one door, they go in a room, they come out, they go out another way so that everybody keeps moving,” he said, describing the scene. “Once all the boxes are done, we moved on to doors and marker boards. Got all those out.”

The renovation projects usually begin right after Memorial Day, Harrell said.

“Well, this time, we had it all out before that Friday,” he said. “That allowed us to immediately start painting prep, filling holes, doing things like that. We actually gained about three days.”

Harrell said it’s been an “extraordinary effort” this year.

“I don’t know if we’re just getting better at it or, with the help of these individuals, just learning the system and knowing exactly what to do,” he said. “It really cuts down on all the confusion.”

The goal is to have everybody in by the end of July to give teachers the time to set their rooms up.

“Get that off their minds so they can concentrate on educating our students,” Harrell said.

Board member Trip Leach said he was pleased to see the group of workers get the recognition they deserved.

“Hats of to you guys,” he said.

During the board meeting, the board also acknowledged two newly-hired assistant principals: Heath Dow to Theodore Jones Elementary and Jana Stires-Irvin to Ruth Doyle Middle School.

Dow has been teaching at Marguerite Vann Elementary since August 2010. Stires-Irvin has spent the past year serving as a math middle school instructional facilitator and from 2006-2018 was a seventh-grade math teacher at Bob and Betty Courtway Middle School.

In other news, the board:

• Approved four student transfers.

• Heard varying other reports on other district topics including curriculum and instruction updates, athletics, professional development plans and the wellness program.

• Approved 13 resignations and 27 new hires.