While construction crews were busy renovated the Van Buren School District’s track and field facility, the district itself was busy answering questions about the new track’s availability to the public.

Dr. Harold Jeffcoat, superintendent of Van Buren schools, assured the district’s patrons the track would be available for public use, but also pointed out use would have to be limited to times when school wasn’t in session or the track wasn’t being used for school events.

Jeffcoat said an alternative option would be the walking trails, sidewalks and workout equipment that’s either already installed or coming soon to the various schools in the district.

“We want to encourage health and wellness as much as we can in our community and we see the track as a benefit to those folks who want to take advantage of it,” said Jeffcoat. “We’re typically not going to have the practices before and after school at those other locations so they’ll be much more available for public use.”

Jeffcoat said the district is continually working to secure funding to bring trails and equipment to the various campuses in the district, equipment and trails that will offer more access to the various neighborhoods in which the schools are located.

“We are always trying to find ways to advance our ‘health and wellness’ initiatives in Van Buren,” Jeffcoat said. “We did receive several Joint Use Agreement (JUA) grants this year and will begin construction on projects soon. While all projects did not receive funding we were awarded funding for improvements at Central Elementary, Van Buren Freshman Academy and Van Buren High School as well as the Van Buren Boys and Girls Club.”

The district is working in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club and the City of Van Buren to secure these grants.

“At each of the schools we will construct fitness courses/stations which will be available to our community to use anytime school is not in session,” he said.

The funding recently received for the Boys and Girls Club was used to resurface the gym floor and to add wall padding, two projects that have already been completed.

“The grant funds, which are made possible through the Arkansas Tobacco Excise Tax, is a competitive process,” said Jeffcoat. “While applying for these funds is a rigorous process, to say the least, we believe the time and effort has been worth it as our school district and community has now received $350,000 over the last few years for projects. We appreciate the partnership we have with the city and Boys and Girls Club that allowed us to pursue these grants. It truly takes all of us working together to make this happen."

One project that was not approved this time was a walking trail at Parkview Elementary. Jeffcoat said the district will re-apply for funds for that project next year.

 “We have to submit a plan and a budget of what it would take to complete the project and they consider it and look at the public use and availability of use and then they award accordingly,” he said. 

Among the projects funded by the grants are walking trails at Central, King and Tate Elementary Schools, a trail made up of crusher dust with a concrete path at the Freshman Academy and recently installed exercise equipment at Butterfield Trail Middle School.

A trail is under construction at City Heights Elementary School with another scheduled soon at Rena Elementary School.

 “We just finished a nice walking trail with some exercise equipment at King Elementary School that’s available for the public," he said. “Our goal is to have them at every campus for our families that live in those neighborhoods to enjoy.”