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PEA RIDGE -- With the opening of the new Pea Ridge High School, which will house sophomores through seniors, most every school building will see change.

"As we prepare for the new building, it links right in to what we've been doing in our office as we prepare for the reconfiguration," Superintendent Rick Neal told School Board members.

"We're starting the planning process and working on how to communicate to people in the community, on staff, to the board. We're getting down to the final preparations," he said, commending assistant superintendents Keith Martin and Anne Martfeld and athletic director Kevin Ramey for their work on the planning. "We're trying to merge these pieces together."

Martin, Martfeld and Ramey presented plans to the board for the reconfiguration and plans to communicate the changes to students, family and guardians.

"All of us will be changing," Martfeld said. "At the heart of it, we're not changing who we are as a community and a school. ... This type of whole district reconfiguration has quite an impact."

"It's a work of the collective whole and not just a few people," Martin said.

Martfeld said change will affect everyone "from the top down ... transitioning from the [Pea Ridge Manufacturing and Business Academy] model to what it's going to look like -- college and career readiness, getting them through graduation," she said.

"We're opening a junior high. That has a different vision than a middle school," she said.

Each school, except the Primary School, which contains kindergarten through second grade, will change.

"The Intermediate School -- we're resetting a whole culture instead of just moving buildings and boxes," she said.

Martfeld said the school is hosting several parent nights and plans to "actually train community on what a new junior high looks like."

She said the junior high students will have more elective options, and staff, parents and students will need to be educated about the changes.

"Our principals have worked really hard at aligning vertically, step by step," Martin said. "It's all aligning vertically so we're one cohesive team."

Ramey said each building administrator is being counseled on how the building is changing, why there's a need and what it will look like in the future.

"We're sharing our 'why' and 'what' we're doing, making sure we're communicating," Ramey said.

Martfeld said there may be "significant changes in teaching assignments" and school officials are "trying to be fiscally tight" but readjusting roles. Martin said there are plans to hire five positions with three of those in food service, one a nurse and one a media specialist.

"We're very proud we can open up a new building without any new hires," Martin said.

Board member Jenny Wood asked whether administrators are listening to teachers' concerns if they're not happy about the changes in assignments.

"We already know about potential retirements," Martfeld said. She plans to start an instructional support system in each building to support each principal without additional cost to the district.

"Our fiscal consciousness has been at the forefront of our mind as we realign talent," she said.

"It will not run like a traditional high school," Martfeld said.

"We have to have a well-designed plan so that no matter what we do Aug. 13, 2020, that school functions," Martin said.

"Right now, in our district, there are three transitions a child makes in life with us," Martin said. "Now, we're moving to four."

"Everybody should be extremely excited about this," Neal said.

"At the end of the day," Martfeld said, "we believe trust and integrity are foundational for helping students build successful relationships. We believe in empowering students through personalized learning. We believe collaboration is a cornerstone for a high-quality education."

Martin said that, even though there may be anxiety among the faculty and staff about the upcoming changes, they've been wonderful to work with.

"We're going from being a small-medium School District to being a medium district," Martin said.

"Thank you for the thought that you put into this," board president Jeff Neil said. "If we come to a situation where it's best for kids that we need to add more staff, then please understand that we will."

NW News on 01/26/2020

Print Headline: Changes coming with new high school

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