District Gives Annual Report

PRAIRIE GROVE -- Prairie Grove School District gave its annual report to the public, as required by the state, just prior to its Oct. 19 School Board meeting.

The report shows that the school's enrollment has increased from 1,990 in 2018 to 2,046 students in 2020.

The high school's average composite score on the ACT test continues to be above the state average, according to the annual report. For 2019-20, Prairie Grove's average ACT composite score was 19.4, compared to 18.5 for the state.

Pete Joenks, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the district's goals for 2020-21 are:

• Have collaborative teams at all schools to increase the use of common formative assessments to differentiate instruction based on students' needs.

• Finish the process of adopting the Arkansas Department of Education's reading campaign by completing the training and tenets of "Science of Reading" in the classroom.

• Increase student enrollment in higher level career training education courses based upon the school district's student graduation plan.

Joenks told board members that the district will be able to use its 2019-20 free and reduced meal rate for the 2021-22 year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a change that meals will be free to all students, 18 and under, through the spring semester because of the covid-19 pandemic and health emergency.

Joenks said the district had been concerned its rate would go down this year because parents would not apply for the program. However, he said the Arkansas Department of Education has essentially issued a "do not harm" policy and the 2019-20 percentage will carry over into 2021-22.

For Prairie Grove, 46% of students qualify for the free and reduced meal program, according to the annual report.

During his curriculum report to the board, Joenks said the district has not made a decision whether it will participate in a new program with the state called Engage Arkansas. The state has a contract with a company called Graduation Alliance that will help look for students who are not showing up for school.

"We've done an initial opt-in," Joenks told board members, "but there may be some situations we're not comfortable with."

The school has not signed an agreement yet, Joenks said.

After the meeting, Joenks said some of the concerns are giving out phone numbers and addresses of students to a private business.

"We want to make sure we have grounds to be able to provide the information to them out of respect to privacy issues," Joenks said.

Prairie Grove schools are only missing a handful of students, Joenks said, explaining these are students who have not shown up in person or virtually and staff do not know where they are.

"Sometimes kids move and don't tell the school they left," he said.

He said Prairie Grove staff have worked hard to find students, including home visits and many phone calls.

He said the Arkansas Engage program would probably be most helpful to larger school districts who are trying to locate a lot more students. He said staff will continue to research the program before making any decisions.

Joenks said the elementary school is interested in using standards-based report cards for its third and fourth grade students. The school already uses such report cards for kindergarten through second grade students.

He said the elementary school may use standards-based report cards for the older students during the spring semester or start it during the 2021-22 school year.

Superintendent Reba Holmes said the high school is going to issue badges and fobs for seniors to be able to use the front door during school hours only. Holmes said seniors go in and out of the building so much it will make it easier for everyone for seniors to have their own fobs.

The district plans to eventually issue student identification badges for all students but will start with the high school seniors, Holmes said.

In other business, Holmes reported that the school's millage rate for property taxes for 2020 will decrease slightly from 42.9 mills to 42.5 mills because of a millage rollback. The rollback is the result of the 2020 countywide reappraisal.

Holmes also said the school has received a $3,000 grant from Arvest Foundation and it will be used to build a front awning for the elementary school.

The board accepted the resignation of Jamie Gleason, middle school/junior high nurse, and hired Sara Johnson as the new nurse. Two bus drivers also resigned.

Student transfers approved by the board included included five students transferring from Prairie Grove to Farmington and two students transferring to Fayetteville.

School nurse Danielle Randolph, who is the district's point of contact for covid-19, has received the Outstanding Teacher Award for October from Sam's Furniture and Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.