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Farmington discusses land for new school

by Lynn Kutter | August 14, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

FARMINGTON -- The Farmington School Board is looking at land at the intersection of Clyde Carnes Road and Arkansas 170 as the possible site for a future elementary school, but one board member tossed out the idea of using that location for a junior high school building instead.

Superintendent Jon Laffoon on Aug. 1 gave board members a handout on a meeting with Darrin Riggins with Riggins Construction. Riggins has about 27 acres on the corner of Arkansas 170 and is interested in selling the land to the school, Laffoon said.

Riggins offered the following options to the school:

Option 1: Purchase all 27 acres for $35,000 per acre for $945,000.

Option 2: Purchase 13 acres on the corner of Arkansas 170 (south of the high school) for $45,000 per acre for $585,000.

Option 3: Purchase 15 acres on the corner of Arkansas 170 and Clyde Carnes for $35,000 per acre for $525,000. (This land is adjacent to Wagon Wheel subdivision).

Board member Amy Hill noted that the middle school is filling up and then the junior high will be out of space.

"Have we thought about doing a junior high there?" Hill asked everyone.

She suggested changing the middle school into an elementary school, to give Farmington three elementary schools, and then moving the middle school to the junior high campus.

"That's just a thought," Hill said. "While we're buying land that's available, it might be something we should consider."

Having a junior high campus close to the high school would be an advantage for busing students for athletics and other classes at the high school, Hill said.

School Board member Mark Vaughn said he's had similar thoughts, noting that one option for purchasing the land may be good for the next five years but what about 10 and 15 years down the road.

Vaughn said it may be more cost effective to buy all the land available under option one now, instead of later.

Board president Travis Warren said the board also might consider that the location on Clyde Carnes Road and Arkansas 170 is in the most southern part of district boundaries.

"Should we look at something closer to the middle school?" Warren asked.

Laffoon said the school's seven-year master facilities plan calls for a new elementary school in 2025 but the board can change that plan at anytime.

Laffoon agreed Clyde Carnes Road would be better for a junior high school, but at the same time, he pointed out it's more expensive to build a junior high.

Board members talked about having a work session to discuss the land and future school buildings. One note of caution, Laffoon said, is that the district does not know how long the land on Clyde Carnes will be available for purchase by the school.

"This price, I don't think you can beat it for this land," he said.

The board's Aug. 1 meeting had a full agenda, along with the discussion about the land.

In other business, the board approved transferring almost $1.5 million to the building fund to meet Act 1105 which says a district's net balance cannot exceed 20% of net revenue to end the year. Money in the building fund can be used for construction projects, maintenance and facility repairs. With the transfer, Farmington will have $10.6 million in its building fund.

Addressing vaping and marijuana

The board approved student handbook updates, including new procedures to address problems at the junior high with students using electronic cigarettes loaded with marijuana or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in marijuana that gives the user a high).

The board held 13 expulsion hearings last year for junior high students accused of using vaping devices with THC. Most students were given the opportunity to participate in the Second Chance program, but about four of those did not complete the requirements and were expelled, according to Laffoon. Other students are still in the program.

"The Second Chance program was not extremely successful this year with our junior high students," Laffoon said.

For 2022-23, staff wants to be more proactive and help students if they have a problem, Laffoon said. The procedures for a first infraction include an evaluation, reducing suspension from 10 days to five days and counseling for continued support.

For a second infraction, a student will be suspended for 10 days and/or given the opportunity to go into the Second Chance program and/or expelled.

Hill said she supported the updates to the handbook.

"I think we need to catch them young," Hill said.

Laffoon agreed, saying the high school has been successful with the Second Chance program and its students.

Recruiting, retaining teachers

The board approved the district's Recruitment and Retention Plan, a plan required by the Arkansas Department of Education.

The three-year action plan has a goal to broaden the areas of recruitment to be more inclusive, specifically for African American and Latino applicants. The goal is for the teaching and administrative staff to reflect the diversity of the student population.

According to district data in the plan, for 2021-22, Farmington's student body was 79% white, 10% Hispanic/Latino, 7% two or more races, 3% Black/African American, less than 1% for American Indian, Asian and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

For 2021-22, the district's teaching staff was 97% white, 1% Hispanic/Latino, 1% Black/African American, and less than 1% for American Indian and Asian, with 100% of the district's administrators white.

For retention, the goals are to maintain a competitive salary schedule with other schools in the region and state. For 2021-22, Farmington was ranked 23rd in the state and eighth in the Benton/Washington county region. The goal is to improve this so Farmington is ranked in the top 20 in the state for its salaries and in the top 5 in the region.

Another focus in the plan is to increase the number of students who pursue careers in education with an emphasis on students of minority races and ethnicities.

In other action, the board:

• Approved a $19,898 bid from Surfco Restoration and Construction to strip the paint on fencing at the football stadium so it can be repainted. The paint on the fencing is chipping and peeling off. With this process, the new paint should adhere to the fence, Laffoon said.

• Approved hiring Natalie Travis and Amelia Falcon as junior high teachers and Chelsey Carter as a kindergarten teacher at Folsom Elementary.

• Accepted the resignations of certified staff: Anna Johnson, (teacher/coach) and Lindsey Winberly (instructional facilitator). Austin Lewis will be added as an assistant boys and girls soccer coach for 2022-23.

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