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School board reviews proposed facility use policy

by Randy Moll | November 23, 2021 at 10:49 a.m.

GENTRY -- The school board in Gentry approved several personnel items and discussed the facility use policy as it relates to the community at its regular meeting on Nov. 15.

The board accepted the resignations of Charlie Hancock as a custodian and Brenda Coones as a primary school cafeteria worker. It approved the hiring of Chad Haslett as the new transportation/fleet manager, and Haslett was introduced at the meeting.

Also approved was the hiring of Brittany Balloun as a resource teacher at the primary school, effective Nov. 16, and Kayleigh Bowlds as a speech pathologist, effective Dec. 6.

Board members reviewed a facility usage policy recommendation which establishes a priority for usage of school facilities, giving school use first priority, widely accepted community organizations such as the Gentry Youth Organization second priority and other organizations such as travel teams third priority as long as the coaches are registered volunteers or school employees coaching for the school district, with the added requirement that teams must be made up of at least 50 percent Gentry students.

After some discussion between board members and school district staff, as well as registered volunteer coach Joey Spivey, it was recommended that the policy include a provision to allow outside organizations such as traveling teams four years to get the percentage numbers for Gentry students up to 50 percent.

Coach Spivey expressed his desire to be able to use Gentry facilities for teams made up of players in grades seven through high school. He said his academy is a nonprofit organization and it seeks to provide training for players from low-income families. He assured the board that he was not making a profit from his work but was putting his own money into the program. He said he was teaching his players the fundamentals of the game and preparing them with the skills they will need to play on Gentry teams.

School board concerns included the costs to the school district for extra cleaning of the facilities and for repair or replacement when equipment is damaged.

Board member John Skaggs said he was concerned about local taxpayers footing the bill if a majority of the kids on traveling teams were not from the Gentry School District, but he was agreeable to allowing traveling teams to use the facilities for a few years while achieving the goal of having at least 50 percent of players being from the Gentry School District.

Also discussed were times when the facilities are cleaned so that cleaning could be done without paying custodians and maintenance workers overtime to have the facilities ready for the next school day.

Also included in the recommended policy is a liability waiver signed by parents of athletes using the school facilities and a rule not allowing siblings of athletes to be in the facility during practices.

Terrie Metz, district superintendent, said the proposed policy will be amended to reflect the discussion and thoughts of board members and then brought back for board consideration at its December meeting.

It was reported to the board that a request for qualifications was published statewide and that seven architectural firms had submitted information packets and qualifications to be considered for work on school expansion plans which include a new high school building. Jason Barrett, the school district's maintenance and transportation director, said that he and Superintendent Metz would review the information received and bring back to the board a recommendation for the top three firms with which negotiations could occur for a contract for architectural services.

Barrett, the school district's contact person for covid-19 reporting, noted numbers had gone up again, with eight positive cases in the school district the previous week and 45 quarantined. He said he would issue a weekly report to the board and to the public via the school district website whenever the positive cases are five or more.

The board approved a $2,800 contract with the Arkansas School Board Association for model policies.

The board reviewed ethics notifications from three school district employees and one board member and will allow them to do business with the school district via a bid process.

Assistant Superintendent Christie Toland reported that, on Nov. 10, seniors Kyleigh Wheaton and Mazzi Jones signed their national letters of intent to continue their softball and academic careers in college. Wheaton will attend Harding University and Jones will be going to Crowder College.

In FFA and agriculture news, she reported that:

• 10 students attended the national FFA convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. Students attend workshops, career fair booths and sessions with keynote speakers.

• Jonathan Digby, Lucas Guinn, Bailey Lemke and Robert Baker competed in FFA at the national level in meats evaluation. As a team, they earned a silver medal. Individually, Guinn, Digby and Lemke earned a silver medal, and Baker earned a bronze.

• Fruit sales are going on and will end Friday, Dec. 12, with delivery before Christmas break.

• Students in the agriculture classes helped to repaint and put out footballs and megaphones to celebrate the football team making it to the state playoffs.

• FFA completed five Christmas shoeboxes to be sent overseas to children.

• The first fall floral subscription arranged by plant classes will go out this week.

• A canned food drive will take place after Thanksgiving break.

Under Family and Consumer Science, Toland reported:

• In October, a Halloween war cake and pumpkin competition were held.

• In Lifespan Development class, a baby egg project was held. Students decorated a boiled egg and created a crib for the baby. Participating students were required to keep their babies with them all week and do a reflection each day.

In the middle school, students Paisley Amos, Channing Renfroe and Adeline McGhee, along with teacher Sue Ann Chenault, were October Pioneer PATH recipients. The sixth grade also took a field trip to Crystal Bridges in Bentonville.

At the intermediate school, a penny war fundraiser was held, with a staff talent show as a reward. A canned-food drive organized by third-grade students was held last week. A gratitude tree was to be displayed in the main hallway, as well.

The primary school just completed a STEM day on Nov. 8. Every classroom participated and was able to take part in many STEM challenges. The second grade invited science and STEM specialists Jenny Gammill and Carley Geanolous to lead students in activities with Ozobots and coding.

Toland also reported that the Gentry School District had two more students who have achieved the Arkansas Seal of Biliteracy.

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