Russellville's band students will be wearing brand new uniforms within a couple years thanks to an anonymous donation from a local resident.
Band Director Nathan Gargus presented a prototype of the new blue and black marching uniforms, complete with a shiny silver helmet, at the Cole R-1 Board of Education meeting Thursday evening at Russellville High School.
The board also discussed construction updates and the possibility of instituting a drug-screening policy.
Gargus said the donation is enough to purchase 40-45 new uniforms and regimental-style helmets at a little more than $400 a piece. The band's new regalia will replace 56 remaining 17-year-old uniforms that cost about $579, Gargus said.
"This is just an all-around better deal," Gargus said of the new uniforms, which were funded by "a generous anonymous donor."
Gargus said he is working with the designer to complete final details. There will be a seven-month production delay after he makes the order, which he hopes to complete by the end of the year. The uniforms probably will not arrive in time for next season and likely won't be worn until the current sophomores are seniors.
Board members unanimously accepted a $8,500 bid from Timberlake Engineering to design the specs for the next phase of HVAC updates in the high school and K-8 building.
The board also accepted a $18,104 bid from Lewis Irrigation to install a system to water the football field. Lewis Irrigation submitted the lowest bid and was recommended by the company that assisted with the irrigation plans. Superintendent Perry Gorrell said the field should be ready for the fall season.
Gorrell recommended waiting to purchase new mobile football field bleachers, but warned the price of aluminum is becoming unstable and the track also will need to be resurfaced in a couple years, which could create "double whammy" expenses for the district. These issues will be further addressed at the next board meeting.
Russellville High School Principal Chris Mitchell presented his research on implementing a district drug-screening policy. He said drug screening has become a common practice in the area, with some schools testing only high school students while others test middle school students as well.
The administration believes holding random drug screenings will give students another reason to refuse drugs. The high school Student Leadership Team was in favor of the proposal, saying it will give students an excuse to deny peer pressure to use drugs at social events.
Gorrell said the increasing rate of opioid use inspired administrators to consider drug testing, and it was not in response to a drug-related incident in Cole R-5.
"We as administrators have been overwhelmed about the opioid crisis in the nation," he said. "We need to protect our kids; and if this helps, then we need to be proactive."
Mitchell plans to survey parents on how they feel about drug screening in school and will report back to the board with his findings. In the past, some people in the district have said preventing drug use is a parental responsibility, not a facet of education which falls under the purview of the school system, but those feelings may be changing in the wake of the opioid crisis reaching rural towns like Russellville.