The Crossett School District’s Board of Education voted last week to call for a May election in light of redistricting because of population changes in the area.

Superintendent Gary Williams brought a proposed map for new school board zones to the board at its regular monthly meeting. 

Williams said that Zones 1, 2, 3, and 5 had to be redrawn to accommodate population shifts following the 2020 census. Zone 4, which board member Katie Jordan represents, did not have a significant enough change in population to warrant redistricting.

In presenting the proposed map to the board, Williams said some legal experts did not believe that District 4 would have to have a new election since it had not been redrawn, but that the board could call for all five districts to seek re-election if it wanted.

Secretary Eddie Goodson, who represents District 3, said that when the districts were redrawn in 2010, Zone 2 did not have a change but the representative for that zone had to run again.

Jordan said she did not see a point in having her district vote again since it did not change.

“If we want to do the (election for) the four (districts) and something comes back and someone wants to contest it and I have to run again, I am fine with that, but I just don’t see the necessity,” she said.

After a short discussion, the board took a vote to accept the proposed rezoned map and to require all five districts to seek re-election.

Board President Keith Medders, Goodson, and Zone 1’s Debra Barnes voted for the measure, while Jordan voted against it. 

Board Vice President Keith Carter, who represents Zone 2, was not present at the meeting.

Also during the meeting the district and school administration presented their annual report to the public about the schools’ performance and progress.

Every administrator who spoke said that the 2020-2021 school year presented unique challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One of the biggest hurdles came with the initial start of school, Assistant Superintendent Barbara Garner said. When students left for Spring Break in March 2020, no one expected that they would not be returning to school that year.

“Last year, (2020-2021), we started school late, so students had not received any guided instruction from a teacher for six months,” Garner said. “They went from March 24 to Aug. 24 without any instruction.”

Likewise, the schools had to deal with the challenge of teaching and testing students in virtual and in-person settings.

“Some students were not successful with virtual learning,” Garner said.

Crossett Elementary School Principal Veronica Robinson said schools observed some learning loss because of the challenges students had to face over the year, but “we didn’t have a big drop, which means that we had some strong things in place, that our curriculum is strong.”

Schools also had to address the reality of students’ social and emotional needs following the long months of quarantine, Robinson said.

“So we (were) just trying to get them back to school and ready to learn,” she said. “We are doing that as a collective group.”

Crossett Middle School Principal Beth Carter, who started in the position in August, said the school is working on a number of intervention programs to help students who are testing lower than they should get where they need to be.

Part of raising the middle school’s overall performance rating will be addressing attendance issues, Carter said.

“We need to work on attendance,” she said. “We are making sure a phone call goes out to parents if their students are missing school or are tardy.”

Crossett High School Principal Anthony Boykin said the high school lost some ground over the last year but that it was expected. 

The school’s performance rating score fell just below the state average.

“We are right on the line for what the state average is,” he said. “Everyone (in other school districts) touts that ‘We are at the state average,’ but we want to get beyond that.”

One place CHS is above the state average, however, is its graduation rate. Last year 94 percent of students slated to graduate did so, and the five year average is 90 percent.

“We are very proactive, very aggressive with our students,” Boykin said. “We take a look at where you are, ask, ‘Where are your credits?’

“Even with COVID we did not lose any ground, and we showed small growth with our (demographic) subgroups, with our graduation rate.”

Boykin said one good thing to come out of COVID is that student participation is very high.

“Because of COVID they miss school, and when they can’t be in school they want to be in school,” he said.

“They have come to me and asked, ‘Mr. Boykin, what can we do to get involved in school?’”

In other news, during the meeting the board hosted a public hearing about the district’s master plan for its facilities.

After Williams presented the plan, the floor was open for public comment but no members of the public outside of school administrators were present.

Williams said that the district’s committed projects in the plan include building a band shell at the stadium and installing stadium lights at the baseball field.

Completed projects for the recent past include installing a new press box at the stadium, a roofing system at the administration building, track repairs, an upgraded ticket booth at the stadium, new camera systems around the district, and upgrades to the batting cage at the field house.

Planned projects include roofing at Crossett Learning Center, CMS, the bus garage and the CHS field house, as well as HVAC systems at CMS and the elementary school buildings.