Lincoln School Board Discusses Campus Safety

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LINCOLN — Lincoln School Board member Oleta Danforth had a question for her colleagues and the administration near the end of the July 18 board meeting. She asked if the school could consider hiring security guards for school campuses.

Lincoln Consolidated School District superintendent Mary Ann Spears said she thought it was a good idea and would check with other school districts to see what they were doing.

“The discussion came to have an armed presence on each of our campuses,” Spears said during the meeting.

Julie McConnell, the newest board member who was elected in May, also wondered about reviving the Watch Dog program, a program where dads volunteer to be in school.

Spears said school officials may consider the suggestion as well. Lincoln had the Watch Dog program about eight to 10 years ago, primary director Traci Birkes told council members.

Lincoln Police Chief Kenneth Albright, who is also school board president, said last week he agreed with Danforth.

“I totally agree that we have to have something,” Albright said later that week. “You hate having to have these discussions, but it’s something you need to address and consider. We owe it to the community.”

The Lincoln Police Department will have its first full-time school resource officer this year, and Albright said he would like the Lincoln Consolidated School District to look at what schools in Farmington and Prairie Grove are doing. Each has employees who are part of the staff but also serve as security guards if the need arises. In a few cases, the security guards are retired law enforcement officers.

“I would love to see him for this coming year,” Albright said. “I think we’ll keep going and see if we can start.”

In other cases, Spears said the district used 91% of its budget for the 2022-23 year. She said she hopes to have a surplus that can be transferred to the district’s building fund and will know more next month after all expenses for the year are finalized.

According to the report, the district started the year with a balance of $2.3 million. He received approximately $1.5 million in revenue, with $2.2 million in expenses, leaving a ending balance of $1.6 million.

Spears said a report from Ozarks Electric shows the district saved $17,000 in energy costs from January to June thanks to the Ozarks solar panel on Wedington Blacktop Road.

Food Nutrition Director Valerie Dawson said the district fed about 270 children this summer through the food program with the US Department of Agriculture. Parents can have five free meals on Wednesdays.

This year, Dawson said, the district will return to the free and reduced meal program that was used before the pandemic. Parents will need to apply for a meal discount. Approximately 70% of Lincoln students have qualified for the free and reduced lunch program in previous years.

Schools received federal waivers during the covid-19 pandemic, allowing them to distribute free meals to all students. The exemptions expired on June 30.

Dawson said it would cost around $300,000 to $500,000 if Lincoln wanted to try to feed all of his students.

Spears noted that the district cannot afford these costs.

Board-approved personnel changes included the hiring of Paige Warren (art), Shannon Medina (speech therapy), Jake Heinrich (IT company/high school coach), and Sarah West and Rhonda Reaves as paraprofessionals.

The board accepted the resignation of Natalie Travis, a teacher at the college.

Jana Claybrook, director of learning services for the district, reported on changes to the district student manual.

The high school will no longer use Saturday school for students who are excessively late. Claybrook said it didn’t prove effective. Additionally, out-of-school suspension will also not be used for truancy or excessive absences this year.

The district will continue annual lockdown drills for staff, but will not do lockdown drills for students. Claybrook said the Arkansas School Safety Commission is working on new guidelines and the district will use the commission’s safety recommendations when they are approved.

Students will be responsible for ensuring that all their assignments are returned on time. After an assignment’s deadline has passed, students will not be given an extended time to turn in missing assignments without medical documentation.

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