BIC holds second informational meeting

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Patrons of the BIC School District gathered at the East Elementary cafeteria in Leachville to hear the second informational meeting about possible construction of new facilities. (Town Crier photo/Christie Benham)

Buffalo Island Central superintendent Gaylon Taylor welcomed patrons to the BIC East Elementary cafeteria Thursday, Jan. 16, where he gave a presentation outlining the district's needs.

The PowerPoint presentation was the second informational meeting where Taylor talked about the district's need of new facilities, the cost and the benefits to not only the students but the community. He said any new construction would require a millage increase but with both the West and East elementary buildings being 50 plus years old, the junior high being 34 years old and the high school being 29 plus years old, the district is in dire need of new facilities.

"This meeting is to inform you as a community about BIC, where we are and where we need to be in the future," Taylor said. "We want you to take the information given and call me and talk with school board members. We want you to tell us what you want to see for this district. It is very important that you open the door of communication with our board members."

Taylor explained at the beginning of the school year faculty and staff were asked what were the district's weakness and strengths. Faculty on both campuses felt solidarity was a weakness. Taylor explained that with four buildings on two campuses many felt all were going in their own direction and the two campuses instead of acting as a cohesive school are two separate schools.

"Until our students are all shoulder to shoulder in the classrooms and hallways we are not going to be together as one school," Taylor said.

Right now the BIC district is paying utilities, maintenance, personnel and travel expenses for two elementary schools. Taylor said a pre-K through 8th grade building or a pre-K through 12th would bring the two campuses together and be a cost savings. On the list of weakness was also technology. Taylor explained with the age of the facilities new technology is not supported. He also said that 10 year deficit is more with teacher training than with devices. Other areas of weakness include lack of vocational training, inconsistent curriculum due to the separation of facilities, old facilities and the need for more students.

The faculties' solutions for these weaknesses where a new pre-K through 6th or pre-K through 12th facility, more technology and technology training and land to be developed for housing. Taylor pointed out that districts such as Manila and Riverside saw growth in their communities because of their facilities. He explained to grow and retain current students the district will need to provide the very best possible.

Taylor then talked about what faculty saw as strengths which included small staff, strong leadership, parent support, community support, family atmosphere, pride in tradition and a reputation for academics. He went on to explain there is a big need to provide students with vocational opportunities but the district does not have the space or ability to do that.

Taylor, as in the meeting at BIC West Elementary Cafeteria, discussed the process of application, the district's deadlines to apply for state partnership funding, how property is assessed, what each additional mill will cost citizens and the approximate cost of each building options.

Building options include two new elementary schools on existing sites, a pre-K through 8th on east or west, a pre-K through 8th on the county line a half mile either side, a pre-K through 12th on the county line a half mile either side or a pre-K through 6th on one site and 7-12 on the other.

Taylor said any option with two elementary schools will not solve the district's p-roblems because there would still be a separation in schools. The benefits of having a preK through 12 building would be cost savings on personnel, utilities and maintenance, curriculum alignment, adequate space for arts and auxiliary programs, the most up to date science labs, a safe room for kids and safer buildings.

"We know what we need to provide the very best to our kids, now it is up to us to do that," Taylor said.

School board members Todd Edwards and Jason Stewart encouraged patrons to share their thoughts and contact the board with their opinions of what option they liked best. One parent asked how the district would decide what side of the county line to build the school on. Taylor said it all depends on where the district can find land. He did say the district was recently left 220 acres by a lady who also left ASU land with the stipulation that the revenue from that provide scholarships to BIC students.

Another patron asked if the new building would include a place for physical education. Taylor said the MAC complex would still be used for games but the new buildings would include physical education space, which could hopefully double as a safe room for students.

Most patrons were in favor of a new pre-K through 12 facility.

"If you want my opinion I say go pre-K through 12 because it is best for our kids," Snowden Hawkins said.

"I say pre-K through 12 because it's better for our kids all the way around," Sarah Green, parent, said. "I just think it would be better to have our kids all in one place."

City Councilman David Wallace agreed saying, "First I think Gaylon did a great job with this presentation. He was very clear, concise and to the point. I am a big advocate for a pre-K through 12 facility. I feel it is gravely important to our schools that we provide the very best for our children and provide the best facilities possible. If we don't we will become the rural versions of Blytheville and Osceola schools. We don't want to become run down."

"Personally the I like the pre-K through 12 option,' BIC senior Victoria Perez said. "I like the way we would all be united."

The BIC School District will apply for state partnership funds by March 1 of this year. All patrons are encouraged to contact board members or the superintendent to share their thoughts. There will also be a survey put up on the district website.

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