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Growth! Growth! Growth! We see it all around us. It is in our housing, commercial development and schools. What shall we do? I thought it interesting to look at what has happened to Pa Ridge schools over the years. Hopefully, looking to the past can give us a sense of pride on where we are and where we want to go.

Post-Reconstruction through Early Twentieth Century

Average growth over 12 years

Year^Student increase by percent^by number

2005-2006^+6.5%^79

2006-2007^+11%^144

2007-2008^+5.7%^81

2008-2009^+2.2%^

2009-2010^+2.5%^39

2010-2011^+2.6%^41

2011-2012^+1.1%^19

2012-2013^+1.6%^27

2013-2014^+3.8%^65

2014-2015^+6.8%^99

2015-2016^+7.5%^137

2016-2017^+4.3%^87

The first known school to operate at Pea Ridge was the Shelton Academy, opened in 1851 with Professor Lockhart as teacher. For unknown reasons (possibly low enrollment and inadequate funds), the school closed in 1858. In 1874, Reverend Elijah Buttram opened a school at Buttram's Chapel outside town, with Professor John Rains Roberts as principal. After five years, the school, sponsored by the Masonic lodge, the Methodist Episcopal Church, south, and local patrons, was moved into Pea Ridge where, in 1880, a twostory brick schoolhouse was erected.

The school was granted a charter as an academy in 1884, and in 1887--88, the building was enlarged to accommodate 250 pupils. Professor Roberts directed the academy until 1894. Nannie Roberts, his sister, devoted her long career to teaching younger pupils at Pea Ridge Academy and later in the public school. By 1914, the academy was known as the Pea Ridge Masonic College. It operated until 1916, offering elementary, high school and college-level instruction.

Then, as community sentiment favored forming a public school system, the college was closed, and the property deeded to the Pea Ridge Public School. In 1930, the school district dismantled the college building and constructed a one-story building on the site. Principal Joe Roulhac, a noted local educator and carpenter, supervised the design and construction. Extra wings were added in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This community landmark, which housed the entire school before 1948, served as home of the Pea Ridge High School until 2001, when a new high school complex was completed on West Pickens Road. The 1930 building was finally razed in March 2005 after estimated costs to update the aging building to current school standards, or to convert it to other community uses, was determined to be prohibitive. A junior high school was then added in 2005-2006 school year.

School has always been important to the people of Pea Ridge. You have demonstrated pride in your schools and always supported them. You do not have to look far to see how much community involvement we have. Come to a Blackhawk ballgame or to Family Reading night in the elementary. We are at capacity at each and every event. Where do we go from here?

I want to show you some growth figures and projections from the Arkansas Department of Education and Pea Ridge Strategic Planning Committee. You can see that no one in our state realizes how big a factor growth is to us. For example, we have grown 26 students in our elementary since November. District wide it is upward to 40. We have had over 24 percent growth in kindergarten through fourth grade alone. Public Schools are not like any other governmental body. We are required under standards of the state of Arkansas to have only so many children per classroom teacher. What if the City of Pea Ridge was told they could have only so many cars travel down Weston Street? Can you see the dilemma? These are exciting times. I hope we can all join together in planning for the future of our schools.

Sources: Beck, Opal. "History of Benton County, Arkansas." Vol. 1. Rogers, AR: Benton County Heritage Committee, 1991.

Black, J. Dickson. "History of Benton County." Little Rock: International Graphics Institute, 1975.

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Editor's note: This guest editorial was originally published Jan. 17, 2007, as a "Superintendent Scoop," a column by then school superintendent Mike Van Dyke. That year, the Pea Ridge School District requested a 2.2-mil increase on taxes. In September 2007, voters approved that request. The attached chart shows the growth that has continued here in the decade since that millage increase.

Community on 01/10/2018

Print Headline: Growth continues in school, city

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