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School Construction on Harris St.

Rosemary Gregg, Writer

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After needing to upgrade facilities and prepare for growth within the district, including extracurriculars, Bryant passed a millage March 14, 2017. Reconstruction plans permitted by the millage required obtaining houses near the campus. Lois Dalrymple and her son Terry owned a home on Harris St., which they moved away from because they understood that construction is necessary for growth. They considered defending their home, but decided not to cause any disruption.

After 55 years of living near the high school campus, Lois Dalrymple and her son Terry moved. Dalrymple’s connection with Bryant starts from the beginning: Only a few years after Dalrymple began teaching, she got married. When her husband, Lindell Dalrymple, got a job as a counselor at Bryant, close family friends built their house on Harris St.

“We had no intentions of moving, [and] we would not move if the school didn’t need a place, because we like the school atmosphere,” Dalrymple said. “We hear the band all the time, and we can even hear the football games and see the lights.”

Dalrymple started teaching at the age of 21, making only $110 a month. To Dalrymple, the amount was not as important as her passion for teaching elementary students. A few years after marrying, Dalrymple got a job teaching fourth grade at Bryant Elementary school.

“Fourth grade was the right age, because [the students] can read and write, so you can really see a lot of progress,” Dalrymple said. “Sometimes they’d say, ‘You look just like my aunt,’ or ‘You look just like my grandma.’ They’re always coming up with cute things to say and it’s just rewarding to teach.”

Dalrymple taught a girl who came to school crying because her mother had just gotten out of prison. She was worried that her mother’s boyfriend would harm her mother. As the girl was getting ready for school, he was throwing things across the room because her mother would not give him her paycheck.

“She was so upset that she could hardly concentrate on anything, because she was afraid that the boyfriend was going to harm her mother,” Dalrymple said. “My job besides teaching the rest of the kids was to try and comfort her to get her mind off of the situation, and that’s hard to do.”

According to Dalrymple, elementary students often tell their teachers what is bothering them because a teacher can be a child’s best friend.

“As a teacher, you have to to think about how to better handle situations, not just about teaching the subject,” Dalrymple said. “I remember one little girl didn’t have socks to wear, and she would come to school and her feet would be cold, so I carried her a sweater and socks to wear and she was so appreciative of those.”

Dalrymple’s son Terry was inspired by his parents’ devotion to the school and decided to become a math teacher. He taught math at Bryant until he retired in 2006. Terry Dalrymple also believes that as a teacher, it is important to help students with situations that do not pertain to school.

“I always had a heart for kids who were bullied,” Terry Dalrymple said. “I tried to give them a little extra attention.”

As a devoted teacher, he even won a Teacher of the Year award from the senior class.

“A lot of times [as a teacher] you wonder, ‘Am I really making a difference?’ ‘Am I really doing any good?’” Terry Dalrymple said.

Terry Dalrymple bonded with his students outside of school. He helped one student use geometry to calculate how much wood he would need to build speakers for his vehicle.

“That was fun to be able to [use geometry] in a real life situation, instead of just do it on the board,” Terry Dalrymple said. “It was always easy for me to get along with the kids.”

When the Dalrymples taught at Bryant, the city was much smaller. Terry Dalrymple’s graduating class in 1974 was only 140. The only buildings for the district were what are now the old high school buildings. With such a small environment, the Dalrymples had a close relationship with students, teachers and administrators such as Edward Love, the superintendent who inspired the auditorium that would later be named after him.

“If it was snowy or rainy or icy, he would go out in the middle of the night and check the bus routes to see if it was okay.” Lois Dalrymple said. “He didn’t send somebody else, he went himself, with my husband.”

The Dalrymples’ car got stolen on vacation in Atlanta, Georgia, and Love came to pick them up from the bus station at midnight in Little Rock. Lindell Dalrymple asked Love how much he owed him, but Love insisted on doing it as a favor to the family.

“You could always count on him,” Lois Dalrymple said. “He would do anything, for us or anybody else. It was a close-knit community and he knew everybody in school. He was understanding and corrigible and everybody liked him.”

Since the 1970s, the campus has grown and expansion is necessary. Once the millage passed after three attempts, the Dalrymples knew that the school would want their house.

“I’d rather stay here, but we know that the school needs a place,” Lois Dalrymple said.

Over the summer, school realtor Lance Penfield visited with all of the homeowners on Harris St., including the Dalrymples. They called the school board, talked to former superintendent Dr. Tom Kimbrell and went to Ted Boswell’s law office, looking for some kind of hope that they could hold on to their home. Former students of Terry Dalrymple offered to protest, and their friends offered to go to the school board meeting and try to change their minds about buying their home, but they did not want to cause any “conflict with the school or ruin any relationships that they still had.” So, they gave in to selling their house in order to help the school.

“We know this house,” Lois Dalrymple said. “We’ve lived in it ever since it was built, we know what it needs and what it doesn’t need, we know how to [fix it], and at my age, we hadn’t planned to move.”

After taking several months to find a new home, the Dalrymples moved into Bryant Meadows Nov. 17, 2017.

“We’re getting accustomed to it,” Lois Dalrymple said. “Like Terry said though, after living there so many years, it seems like we [should] be going back home.”

The Dalrymples find comfort in the Bryant area and being around school kids, which is why they continue to live within the district.

“Terry still likes to go to the ball games, and we still go to the Boswell Library and church,” Lois Dalrymple said. “So we still do the same things that we did while living on Harris St.”

During a meeting in May, superintendent Karen Walters spoke with three of the four Harris St. homeowners. During the meeting, Walters spoke with the Dalrymples regarding their specific situation with their home.

“I know it was very difficult for [the Dalrymples] to leave, but they said that they understood that the school had grown and that they understood why the school needed that property,” Walters said.

In recent discussions, the district has been working with a traffic engineer to figure out the best way to solve traffic issues. At the moment, they are considering building a drop off and pick up zone for parents on Harris St.

“I feel like traffic right now is very congested,” Walters said. “There’s a lot of kids being dropped off in areas that are not a designated drop-off zones, and I understand why parents do it, because there’s not a lot of designated areas right now.”

Now, all of the four families on Harris St. have completely moved out. According to Walters, buying the properties on Harris St. allows the school to determine placement of buildings. Walters wants to eliminate student parking by building 4 and separate bus traffic from vehicle traffic. To do this, the bus lot is being moved to the Hill Farm area.

“We want to bring this campus in as close as we can to make it more safe,” Walters said. “It makes it very difficult for school safety when there are barriers, like private property.”

The plans for further construction in the school district include a new junior high for 8th and 9th graders across from Hill Farm elementary, more classrooms attached to building 10, a new elementary school, Parkway, in 2018, and a new high school P.E. facility, cafeteria, and fine arts center to be opened Aug. 2019.

Band director Keith Matthews understands the concerns of homeowners on Harris St., but believes that buying their property will be beneficial to the homeowners as well as the school district.

“I think the [homeowners on Harris St.] were given a good deal for their house,” Matthews said. “It’s not like [the school] underpaid them. To some people, where you live is priceless, I get that, but the school couldve paid them market value and claimed eminent domain and not have given them a choice. They made them a very fair offer.”

The current band building was built for about 125 students, but there are about 240 students in band. Because of the limited space, there are three different bands in three different class periods, so the band department will benefit from the new Fine Arts facility. Band director Josh Gardner supports school construction for the band department.

“It’ll be nice when the new [Fine Arts building] is finally built, because we’ll have all of the performing arts in one complex, and we can actually be close to choir and drama,” Gardner said.

According Gardner, the band department has been successful and deserves a new facility.

“I think over the past few years, we’ve been on the threshold of becoming one of the best bands in the state, and I think we’ve shown that were good contenders for providing a music education and a good performance outlet for them,” Gardner said. “I think it’s going to make the school better and our program better.”

Former business teacher Vicki Westbrook taught at Bryant for 31 years. She and her husband Danny, a former Bryant cross-country and track coach, built their home across from the bus lot on School Drive (now T Wood Way) in 1990.

At that point, their home was not completely surrounded by school, like it is now. Last year, the Westbrooks approached the school about purchasing their home.

“We didn’t necessarily want to move, but given the location of [the house], we thought it would probably be in our best interest since we’re both retired now,” Vicki Westbrook said. “[The school] didn’t pressure us–for us, it was more of a ‘We’re moving, would you be interested in purchasing our house?’”

According to Vicki Westbrook, the school needed more land at a convenient time for them, since they were ready to move anyway.

“There’s a lot of memories that we made there, and it was hard to leave it for that reason, but I’m glad that [the school] is getting to use it,” Westbrook said. “I’m glad that [Bryant] is using for the business offices. I think it would’ve bothered me more if they had bought it and then immediately bulldozed it to make a parking lot, or something like that.”

Vicki Westbrook has no regrets about selling their home to the school.

“I think that the timing worked out for both [the school and us],” Westbrook said. “We found a house that we were going to be moving to at a time when they were about to start a new building project and were needing some extra space.”

Drama teacher Jeremy Clay supports the construction for the entire campus, including the drama department. To Clay, sacrificing time in a temporary portable classroom for his students is worth the finished product of the new auditorium.

“I think it’s unfortunate for the people living in those houses, but it’s also an opportunity for them,” Clay said. “If they can find a safer place to live for themselves and for the school district, it’s a win-win.”

Before teaching at Bryant, Clay started singing and dancing when he was eight, which led him on a path pursuing musical theater. After seeing his first Broadway musical at 15, he decided that he wanted to pursue a career in theater as an actor. However his wife encouraged him to take some education classes in college, and since he wanted to start a family, he took on a different path. Clay promotes the construction for the drama department because of his fondness of theater.

“Once I got in the classes and met the kids, I realized that that’s where I belonged,” Clay said. “God knew and he put me right where I needed to be, and I’ve been teaching ever since.”

After spring break, Building 9 will be demolished along with Edward Love Auditorium.  Clay understands that the drama department will have to deal with temporary concerns but believes that the sacrifices are worth the finished product.

“I’m grateful for the vision that our administration has for what Bryant can be,” Clay said. “I think that the changes that [Bryant] is making now will reach benefits for 50 years, and I really see that as a positive for the teachers and students going through the school.”


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