Superintendents, Residents Meet To Discuss Required School Changes

FEBRUARY 9, 2004 -- Posted at 11:59pm

LAWRENCE CO., AR - Schools began talks hours after getting news that some administrations and school boards must consolidate.

Arkansas Department of Education leaders informed superintendents that the law will effect 57 school districts, including 14 in Region 8 that have a student enrollment of 350 or less.

Superintendent Greg Crabtree explained to the parent-teacher group at River Valley schools Monday night that changes must be made by July 1st. A consolidation plan must be in to the Department of Education by April 1st; leaving little time to make decisions.

"Number one is what is in the best interest for the children of our district, but sure you have to look at the financial impact, and, yes, all debt will go together; all carryover will go together," explained Crabtree.

Superintendent Crabtree and Lynn Superintendent George Green have spoken together and with other neighboring districts about consolidating administrations.

At a meeting at their school, Lynn residents said don't want to rush a decision. There is an enticement to do so though. If schools meet that April deadline, there is incentive money of $800 per student, and an additional $700 per student who's on free or reduced lunch. Crabtree said it could mean $424,000 for his district. If a school misses the deadline, the Department of Education decides who it consolidates with, and it receives no money.

Residents in both districts are already expecting that total consolidation is in the near future. They're worried about taking on debt owed by another district. River Valley Schools taxpayers just recently approved a millage increase to pay for a new high school. Greg Crabtree said they are moving forward with those plans. George Green explained that the only debt for that school is on the new school gym.

Administrators of many of the effected schools are meeting this week in Little Rock to file an injunction on the decisions.