Fort Smith School Board adopts Peak contact policy, sets lunch prices

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,278 views 

The Fort Smith Public School board of education passed a resolution at its regular meeting Monday (July 18) to limit staff interaction with a construction company involved with the district’s Peak Innovation Center.

School Board President Dee Blackwell introduced the action “given the intersection of the recent flood at the Peak Center and the election of the Peak Center contractor’s principal to the Board of Education.”

Sandy Dixon, who was elected to the board in May, is president and owner of Turn Key Construction in Fort Smith. Turn Key was the construction manager in charge of the first stage of the Peak Innovation Center construction project, which was completed in the spring. Dixon recused herself from all discussion of the item prior to it being addressed.

Record rainfall in Fort Smith caused flash flooding in the city June 7, June 8 and June 10. Water came into Peak Innovation Center during the rainfall June 7 from two sources, according to FSPS reports. On the north side of the facility, the water entered in approximately (15-20 feet) inward along the majority of its entire length,” the report states. On the east side of the facility, water entered approximately 20-30 feet down the corridors, the unfinished classrooms and the community room space, which are part of phase two of the project and not completed at this time.

On the north side of the facility, the water entered in approximately (15-20 feet) inward along the majority of its entire length,” the report states. On the east side of the facility, water entered approximately 20-30 feet down the corridors, the unfinished classrooms and the community room space, which are part of phase two of the project and not completed at this time.

In an email between Shawn Shaffer, FSPS executive director of facility operations, and Aaron St. Amant, SIT Project Manager with Halff Associates, Shaffer said he was notified by facility staff on June 8 that plywood forms were left inside the junction box, covering one of the 42-inch drain pipes on the property that were installed to help with water issues.

The board voted, 6-0 with Dixon abstaining,  that in order for the district and the board to remain ethical and transparent, Turnkey would need to appoint a representative who would be the one to communicate with any FSPS staff members and address the board in matters related with the Peak center construction contract with the company. Doing so would give a level of separation between Dickinson and the matter and would allow for complete transparency, board members agreed.

Prior to the discussion, Dixon told other members of the board she would recuse herself from any matter dealing with the now completed project and the flooding issue. Dixon noted after the meeting that Turn Key completed the project and she has no issue with the board’s action.

“I promised transparency when I was running. I ran on a commitment to transparency, and that is what I continue to promise and will always promise in the future,” Dixon said.

In other business, the board agreed to return school lunch prices back to pre-COVID-19 pandemic prices with the exception that extra cartons of milk will increase to 50 cents. During the 2021-22 school year, lunches and breakfasts were offered to students free of charge. Breakfast will continue to be offered free to all students, as has been the case for several years.

The federal U.S. Department of Agriculture waiver that allows school districts to provide lunches at no cost to students expired June 30, an FSPS news release said. Because the waiver was not renewed, families who do not qualify for free or reduced price meals will resume paying for school lunches when classes begin in August. Paid student lunches are $2.50-$2.75.