Gentry board made aware of concerns
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.