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Prairie Grove student points out safety concerns

by Lynn Kutter | March 15, 2023 at 10:10 a.m.
Lynn Kutter/Enterprise-Leader Donna Mitchell, Prairie Grove High School teacher, left, introduces members of the junior high Quiz Bowl team to the school board during its Feb. 21 meeting. Members at the meeting: Rylee Lane, Delaney Ake, Jackson McCratic, Andrew Moore, Elijah Sugg and Dominique Fitts. Not pictured are GT coordinator Melanie Nations, Logan Cain, Kaleb Bronson, Eber Barraza and Gus Andrews. The team came in third place in district, qualified for state in DeQueen and then finished in fourth place at state. Team member Logan Cain received All-State recognition.

PRAIRIE GROVE -- A Prairie Grove Junior High eighth grader addressed school board members on Feb. 21 with some concerns about school safety, safety education and ways to improve that.

Payton Orona submitted a request to speak at the board meeting and was given a three-minute limit for her comments, as allowed by board policy.

Orona said her comments were not directed at anyone in particular but observations she has made and changes that she believes would be helpful to students.

She gave specific examples, such as lots of glass windows in cafeterias that would not be considered safe during emergencies, back-to-back fire and tornado drills that are not taken seriously by students and a lack of enough faculty for large groups of students.

The school has not had an active shooter drill this year and Orona said with everyone in new classes, she does not consider that safe. Another example, she said, is that drills are always during second hour, which means she knows what to do if something happens during second hour but would not know what to do if something happened during another hour.

Orona said she travels to the high school every day by bus for a class and because of her schedule usually is the only one outside waiting for a bus. She said she does not consider it safe for her to be alone outside the school.

She asked for more education on school safety for different situations, adding some safety procedures she has learned on her own, not from information offered by the school.

Orona was still talking when the three-minute alarm went off and Pete Joenks, interim superintendent, had to politely tell her time was up. Joenks took notes as Orona was giving out her safety concerns.

In action items Feb. 21, the school board approved the June 30, 2022, audit report and approved a resolution that the school district will not have a polling place for the May school election but the election will be conducted by absentee ballot and early voting.

David Kellogg, assistant superintendent, reported that parents want to donate a portable building to be used as a dressing area for the softball team. The building on skids will be about 12-feet by 24-feet in size. The inside will be finished out with lockers. Kellogg said he was following up on some questions about the building and the board asked him to report back with any new information.

Joenks, in giving the curriculum report, said the school will have a new social studies curriculum next year. Geography will be taught at the middle school and different eras of U.S. history will be in chronological order with each succeeding grade level. Students will begin taking the ACT Aspire tests in April.

Technology director Shawn Witt said the district has unexpectedly received a $40,000 grant from the Emergency Connectivity Fund that provides $400 each for 103 laptops for teachers. The district's cost will be about $25,000. Witt said he will have a recommendation for purchasing the laptops at the March 14 meeting.

The board met in executive session and, when it returned, the board approved the consent agenda, which included the following personnel actions: resignations from high school teacher Amanda Johnson and paraprofessional Larry Clayton; Will Spencer was hired as technology network administrator and Michelle LeBlanc as a high school teacher for one semester.

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