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Board Discusses COVID-19 Pivots; Authorizes Energy Bonds

Ken MClemore

HOPE – The pivot to all virtual instruction on four of the six campuses of the Hope Public Schools drew discussion Monday night from the Hope Public Schools Board of Education.

HPS Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart explained the move from the district’s on-site and virtual instruction mix to all virtual instruction at Clinton Primary School, Beryl Henry Elementary School, Hope Academy of Public Service and Yerger Middle School was the result of COVID-19 concerns among faculty and staff.

“The process of making the decision is gut-wrenching for everybody involved,” Dr. Hart said. “It’s too early in the pivot to know how well it has worked.”

He said the key question for building principals has been one of sustainability.

“Are we quitting or is it necessary?” Hart posed. “We have tried to quantify our decisions; not out of emotion but from data.”

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He said typically anytime a campus has more than 30 percent of its certified faculty absent it becomes almost impossible to provide continuing instruction. Hart said the four campuses which have pivoted to all-virtual instruction showed almost 40 percent of certified staff affected and 35 percent of support staff affected by quarantine factors.

“We’re having to make decisions, not because of student positivity, but faculty positivity,” Hart said.

Hart issued a districtwide memo on Monday which addresses guidance on COVID-19 best practices and the need to raise awareness during the pivot period and coming Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday breaks.

He said only Hope High School and the Creative Action Team School remain in on-site status, in part because of campus-wide awareness of best practices.

The pivot will remain in effect until Nov. 30, when students, faculty and staff are expected to be able to return to on-site instruction at each campus. The district’s Thanksgiving holiday will also account for part of the pivot period from Nov. 25-27.

The board authorized the issuance of some $3.5 million in second lien bonds Monday night to put into motion a comprehensive energy savings and production plan that will include the construction and operation of a solar power array.

The board voted to execute bond authorizations as presented by Jason Holsclaw of Stephens, Inc., of Little Rock, the district’s bond advisor, which will underwrite the multi-project plan.

The overall project by Fayetteville-based Entegrity Partners consists of three phases beginning with contract execution, paving the way for administrative phase funding and design coordination anticipated to be completed for board approval in January.

The third phase beginning in January, 2021, anticipates a 10-month completion period for close out in October, 2021, that will include LED lighting upgrades, solar array fabrication and construction, water conservation measures, HVAC upgrades, sustainability upgrades, piping upgrades at Clinton Primary School, and ceiling replacements at Yerger Middle School.

Total cost savings from the project is estimated at some $225,000 per year, including utilities savings from construction of a 1.13 megawatt AC solar array which will be owned by the school district.

Other matters concluded by the board Monday night included:

–Recognition of art teacher Hosea Born as the Arkansas Education Association 2020 Teacher of the Year.

–Review of the district’s virtual instruction call center activity.

–Consideration of a student transfer request to the Blevins School District.

–Named Hope High School Ladycat Assistant Basketball Coach Kelly Muldrew as interim Ladycat head coach during the recovery from surgery by Ladycat Coach/Co-Athletic Director Susan Powers.

–Approval of a request for use of Jones Field House by local youth basketball, pending compliance with Arkansas Activities Association guidance.

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