Gen­try board made aware of con­cerns

Westside Eagle-Observer - - NEWS - By Randy Moll rmoll@nwadg.com

GEN­TRY — A num­ber of con­cerns were raised at the Sept. 18 Gen­try School Board meet­ing, rang­ing from com­pli­ance with ADA re­quire­ments to how a pro­posed road change in Spring­town would af­fect bus routes there. Con­cern was also raised re­gard­ing a di­rec­tion shift in think­ing re­gard­ing a pro­posed Western Ben­ton County Ca­reer Cen­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to Ter­rie Metz, su­per­in­ten­dent of Gen­try Public Schools, she has con­cerns about the di­rec­tion of the Western Ben­ton County Ca­reer Con­sor­tium be­cause she doesn’t know how well it would serve Gen­try stu­dents. Metz said the con­sor­tium is talk­ing about build­ing a $16 mil­lion dol­lar fa­cil­ity, pos­si­bly on land near the Ben­ton County Fair­grounds, and hopes to pay for it through mill­age. She said, based on high school en­roll­ment num­bers, Gen­try would then re­ceive only 24 class­room seats com­pared to Ben­tonville’s 235, which could mean Gen­try stu­dents would re­ceive lit­tle ben­e­fit from such a cen­ter.

She said she thinks the con­sor­tium is close to the stage at which it will ask mem­ber dis­tricts for a fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment to build the cen­ter but ques­tioned if the Gen­try School Dis­trict could af­ford to do a good job with the work it has started with its own ca­reer cen­ter and also be a part of the con­sor­tium.

“I don’t think we can be great at this (re­fer­ring to the ca­reer classes the dis­trict cur­rently of­fers at its new ca­reer class­room fa­cil­ity) and also do that,” Metz said. She said she doesn’t think the con­sor­tium is go­ing the same di­rec­tion as it did when Gen­try be­came in­volved in its ini­tial plan­ning.

The school dis­trict opened a ca­reer class­room fa­cil­ity on its high school cam­pus last month and of­fers diesel me­chanic train­ing, cer­ti­fied nurse aide train­ing and com­puter tech­nol­ogy classes. Ad­di­tional classes, in­clud­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of evening classes for adults, are in the plan­ning stages.

Metz said Siloam Springs was not a part of the con­sor­tium be­cause it has its own ca­reer train­ing pro­gram. She in­di­cated Gen­try might have to do the same, though she is still look­ing at the di­rec­tion the con­sor­tium is tak­ing to de­ter­mine how it could work to­gether with what Gen­try is do­ing now. She said Gen­try, even if it were not a part of the con­sor­tium, would likely still be able to send stu­dents to such a cen­ter but at a per­pupil cost.

Trans­porta­tion costs to the Cen­ter, if it were near the fair­grounds, would also be a fac­tor to be con­sid­ered by the dis­trict.

Metz said she is wait­ing for more an­swers and will report back to the school board.

Ja­son Bar­rett, the school dis­trict’s trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor, told the board that he and Mrs. Metz had sent a let­ter to Spring­town in re­sponse to a res­o­lu­tion at its Au­gust meet­ing to close a por­tion of Aubrey Long Road east of the Don Early Me­mo­rial Bridge and reroute traf­fic to the west and then north on a closed sec­tion of Bre­de­hoeft Road which was once part of Main Street in the town. Of con­cern to Bar­rett were the 90-de­gree turn off the bridge and the nar­row street.

Bar­rett said he didn’t think the buses could make the turn with­out the back of the buses swing­ing into the bridge rail­ing. He also said he didn’t think there was suf­fi­cient road width to pass other trucks his buses might meet on the road. (See re­lated story in this is­sue on at­tempts to stop the Spring­town road clo­sure.)

In the public com­ment por­tion of the meet­ing, Stephanie Hol­land ad­dressed the board with her con­cerns that there is a lack of com­pli­ance with hand­i­cap ac­ces­si­bil­ity at the school cam­puses and at Pi­o­neer Sta­dium. She said the schools are all out of com­pli­ance with Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act re­quire­ments and asked the board to ad­dress and fix the is­sues.

Coye Cripps, board pres­i­dent, said the school dis­trict was in full com­pli­ance with ADA re­quire­ments but agreed the board should look at ways it can im­prove ac­ces­si­bil­ity for all school dis­trict pa­trons. He asked Hol­land to as­sist the board by point­ing out ar­eas she thinks are not com­pli­ant and then work with the board in look­ing at op­tions to im­prove ac­ces­si­bil­ity. Cripps said he ap­pre­ci­ated her rais­ing the con­cerns to the board and wished other res­i­dents would come to the board with con­cerns. He said he was not ap­pre­cia­tive of peo­ple post­ing their com­plaints and con­clu­sions to so­cial me­dia and mak­ing the school dis­trict look bad in the public’s eye be­fore even bring­ing their con­cerns to the board.

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