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New school shaping up at Vilonia

Posted: January 14, 2014 - 6:07pm

VILONIA — The opening of a new intermediate school in the 2014-15 school year has the Vilonia School District naming two high schools and changing daily schedules at all campuses due to the reorganization of grade levels.

Related issues were discussed at Monday night’s board of education meeting but no decisions were handed down. Superintendent Frank Mitchell recommended more input should be gathered before anything is set in concrete on either. As far as any new scheduling, he said, administrators are working on a plan but it is still a “work in progress.”

“We just keep trying to work out as many bugs as we can,” Mitchell said.

Currently, the elementary and primary schools serve kindergarten through 4th grade; the middle school serves 5th through 7th grade; junior high serves 8th and 9th grades; the high school serves 10th, 11th and 12th grades.

With the opening of the new school, the elementary and primary schools will serve kindergartens through 3rd grade; intermediate school will serve 4th, 5th and 6th graders; 7th and 8th graders will be at the middle school. The high school, formerly the junior high facility, will serve 9th and 10th graders. The current high school facility will serve 11th and 12th graders.

Vilonia High School has been operating on a modified block with four full 90-minute semester blocks and a 45-minute, full-year block. The junior high has been on a seven-period with 55-minute class periods. Fifth and sixth grades have been on a block schedule for several years. Seventh grade has been on a seven-period schedule. Elementary grades K-4 grades are scheduled with one teacher for the full day with some pull out classes.

“Because 9th and 10th grades will be in the same building, it would be very difficult to run on different schedules,” Mitchell said. “Scheduling in these grade levels has been the greatest challenge.”

Mitchell said he developed a basic schedule and has been working with the principals and other educators to modify it and try to make it as acceptable as possible.

“There is no perfect schedule so there will always be problems to deal with,” Mitchell said. The elementary and primary schools, he said, should not have schedule structure changes. However, he said there may be some time changes. For instance, he said, the school day could increase for some students and changes may be made in bus schedules. The daily schedule for high school students, he said, may begin at 7:50 a.m. rather than 8 a.m. and end at 3:19 p.m. rather than 3:13 p.m.

Principals, in the audience, also weighed in on scheduling pros and cons and shared varied opinions. Members of the board asked questions. However, in the end, a couple said they believed the decision should be made by administrators and teachers.

Regarding the naming of the two new high schools, Mitchell said he would like to have input from as many people as possible. Some suggestions, he said, have already been made including Vilonia High School East and Vilonia High School West as well as 9-10 Vilonia High School and 11-12 Vilonia High School.

Other business:

• The board approved a resolution allowing the city sidewalk to be extended across school property, at the old gymnasium, on the northeast corner of Highway 64 and Naylor Road. It will also go up Naylor Rd. to the Eagle Manor Subdivision, he said. Mitchell said the funding for the project is a result of the city applying for a grant and receiving it.

• Approved the athletic handbook.

• Discussed that some schools in the district will receive funds as a result of high test scores on exams on the 2013 state exams combined with high achievement growth on those tests. Vilonia Junior High will receive $43,000 and the Academy of Learning will receive $9,000 for being in the top 10 percent of high-performing schools in Arkansas. Vilonia Middle School will receive $30,000 for being in the top 20 percent.

• Approved a master facilities plan. In a power point presentation, Kevin Luck, district business manager, addressed the board and audience. The Vilonia School District, he said has 400,000 square feet of facilities. Since the last master plan, he said, two safe rooms have been added. The current population, he said is 3,192 students. “It is a growing district but sporadic in growth,” he said. “All of our grade levels are up. The high school is trending up.”

Projections, Luck said, show the growth will increase about 11 percent over the next 10 years.

A project for the next school year is the opening of the new intermediate school. Also, he said, applications to FEMA have been made for two additional saferooms — one to be built at the intermediate and the other at the middle school. The demolition of two buildings including the annex and the building used for housing the suspension school, both built in the 1940s, is to be done next year.

There were several minutes of discussion regarding the need for an auditorium. All in agreement on the need, it was said many hurdles would need to be crossed, including the passing of a mileage in 2016, before it would become a reality. Luck received the go ahead to apply for state funding for that project in the time period frame that would allow the project to be done in 2017. While it is anticipated there will be no state funding for it, it was said that things could change in two years. Also, the school district will not be locked in to the project should the funding be awarded. Making the application, Mitchell said, is just moving forward if “everything looks rosy.” The district, he said, is not committed to anything.

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