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story.lead_photo.caption Bentonville Schools administrators Jennifer Morrow (from left), Janet Schwanhausser and Tanya Sharp cut cake at the School Board meeting Monday. The cake was served to celebrate 13 schools in the Bentonville district received A's on their report cards from the state this year, the most of any district in Arkansas. - Photo by Dave Perozek

BENTONVILLE -- The School Board approved a plan Monday to put signs on buses, making Bentonville one of the first school districts in the state to do so.

The board agreed to let School District administrators negotiate a contract with Crosswalk Marketing of Springdale, which will manage all aspects of the sign program.

Other business

Bentonville’s School Board on Monday approved:

• A maximum price of $24,374,517 for construction of elementary school No. 12, which will be built on Haxton Road in Rogers and is scheduled to open in August 2019.

• A maximum price of $940,786 to replace the roof at Ardis Ann Middle School and Elm Tree Elementary School. The two schools are conjoined.

• Hight Jackson Associates as architect and Crossland Construction as construction manager of the fourth junior high school, scheduled to open in August 2020 at an undetermined site.

• A five-year renewable contract with SSC to provide custodial services at the schools. The contract for SSC’s services for the 2018-19 academic year is the same as the 2017-18 rate of $4,660,362.

Source: Staff report

Signs placed on both sides of the buses will promote district messages and include logos of the businesses sponsoring those messages. Sponsors will pay $2,500 annually for one bus. The district will receive 75 percent, or $1,875, of the revenue from each bus, with the rest going to Crosswalk Marketing, according to Janet Schwanhausser, the district's finance director.

The board approved the plan by a 4-2 vote. Matt Burgess, Willie Cowgur, Rebecca Powers and Eric White voted for it. Travis Riggs, board president, and Joe Quinn voted against it.

The district expects about $175,000 in gross revenue from the signs in the first year and as much as $300,000 by year five, Schwanhausser said.

All proceeds from school bus advertising by law must go toward transportation-related expenses. Administrators said they intend to use the revenue on security cameras and other technology to improve safety, as well as more training for drivers on how to deal with students who have special needs and behavioral problems.

Quinn said he's always a little hesitant "when we have to do this to get to this." If the district needs more cameras for the buses, it should go ahead and get more cameras, he said.

The district has cameras on all of its 120 buses, but officials don't want to wait until the cameras fail or become obsolete before replacing them, Schwanhausser said.

"When we look at the funds set aside based on what is needed, we would need to replace [cameras] every eight years. With additional funding, we can replace them more often," she said.

Riggs' vote against the proposal came as some surprise, as he hadn't expressed opposition during the board's discussion of the matter. After the meeting, he said he wasn't strongly against the proposal, but thought the district could try harder to pay for what it needs with the money it already receives.

In any case, he said, he knew his vote wouldn't affect the outcome of the board's vote.

A 2015 state law permitted advertisements on school buses. Each sign must measure 30 inches by 60 inches and be located on the rear quarter panels of a bus.

The Booneville School District, a district of about 1,200 students southeast of Fort Smith, put signs on five of its buses starting last year in the same manner Bentonville proposes to do. Crosswalk sells the sponsorships and creates the signs for Booneville.

In other business at Monday's meeting, the board approved a plan to pilot a program this summer that's intended to help students who are starting kindergarten this fall.

About 60 students identified as having behavioral concerns will be invited to join the program so staff members may work with them on their social-emotional development and better understand each participant's strengths and weaknesses.

Tamara Gibson, director of elementary education, said many of the district's students with severe behavioral issues are kindergartners and first-graders.

"I know that can be hard to hear, because they're little and they're precious, but it is a reality," Gibson said. "We continue to dig deep and look at how we can offer additional layers of support, allowing us to start addressing those challenges even earlier."

The six-week program is scheduled to run Monday through Thursday starting the week of June 18. There will be a 5-to-1 student-to-adult ratio in the program. It will cost about $735 per student for a total of $44,140. Expenses will be paid from special education and Medicaid reimbursement funds.

NW News on 04/17/2018

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