Four projects are planned by the Van Buren School District to promote health and wellness.

The district has received four grants totaling $120,000 to fund the projects, Dr. Harold Jeffcoat, VBSD superintendent, told the school board Tuesday at its monthly meeting.

Jeffcoat said Drew Cone, the health and wellness coordinator for the district, successfully submitted the applications for funding from Arkansas Tobacco Excise Tax appropriations.

Projects include quarter-mile walking trails adjacent to Central and King Elementary school, an update of the track at the Freshman Academy on the Coleman Campus and the resurfacing of the tennis courts on Pointer Trail.

Jeffcoat said the district will partner with the City of Van Buren’s street department to complete the four projects. Planning is underway and the district has one year to complete the projects.

The Central Elementary trail will utilize recently purchase property and take some of the traffic off the track at Van Buren High School, Jeffcoat said. It also will open up more space for sports teams that practice at the North 24th Street school, he said.

“We are excited to offer these trails to the community,” Jeffcoat said. “Drew did a great job in applying for the grants.”

The district can apply for up to six $30,000 grants per year from tobacco excise tax appropriations.

The board recognized Courtney Cochran who recently was named a regional finalist for the Arkansas teacher of the year competition.

Cochran, a Spanish teacher, earned the opportunity to apply for the honor after being recognized by her peers as the Van Buren High School teacher of the year and earning the overall district honor.

Jeffcoat noted Cochran was one of 14 selected as a regional finalist from 34,000 teachers in the state.

“This is not only about me,” Cochran said. “This represents everyone in the district who has been so supportive of me for the past 11 years.”

Since her arrival at Van Buren School District, Cochran has played a key role in shaping the district’s foreign language curriculum. She was hired in 2006 to pilot a ninth grade Spanish program at the two junior high campuses. In 2008, she moved to Van Buren High School, where she teaches a wide-range of Spanish courses. She has been instrumental in helping to bring in advanced training for the foreign language department and in the expansion of course offerings.

On Sept. 28, Cochran will represent Van Buren at the Capitol in Little Rock at a special ceremony hosted by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Four finalists for the state award.

will be announced at the event.

Also at the meeting, VBHS teacher Jennifer Blakney report on a trip she and high school students took to Quebec, Canada, over the summer as part of a Cultures in Action program paid for by two years of fundraising events.

“It was a wonderful experience and lots of fun for the kids,” Blakney said.

Students making the trip were Cameron Rush, Dawson Love, Morgan McCaleb, Hannah Cervantes, Anakaren Alarcon and Allison Bonds. Parent sponsor was Marie Love.

Blakney noted the students were great ambassadors for the Van Buren School District during the trip.

The board also:

• Voted 7-0 to approve the 2016-17 budget of $63,680.345.

• Purchased 16 laptop computers for $10,647.72 from GovConnection.

• Approved the employment of Kristina Jones as courier for the district’s administration office, effective Sept. 19.

• Accepted the resignation of LaMona Matthews, a special education teacher at Northridge Middle School, effective Oct. 12.

• Approved a leave of absence for Andrea Donelson, a cook at Northridge, effective Sept. 14.