Consolidation taking place as two Blytheville campuses close

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - The Blytheville school board voted to close two of the district's schools and consolidate the student and teacher populations.

The school board unanimously approved the recommendation by Superintendent Richard Atwill to close the Central Elementary School and the Blytheville Charter School.

"The reason that I recommended that is because we have a declining student enrollment. We've been losing funds, about $2.6 million," he said.

Supt. Atwill estimates 3,100 students were enrolled in the Blytheville Public Schools district in 2010, compared to 2, 598 in 2013, and decreased enrollment leads to decreased federal and state funding.

"Closing these two campuses is going to save us a minimum of $807,000 a year," he said. "I looked at closing all the schools and building a new one. I looked at closing Intermediate School and leaving Central open, and just looking at all the assets. I gathered this information for months.

Central Elementary houses third and fourth grade students. Those classes and teachers will move to Blytheville Intermediate School, which currently houses fifth and sixth grade.

The Intermediate School will become home to third through fifth grade, and the sixth grade will move to Blytheville Middle School.

Charter School students will integrate their alternative learning environment classrooms onto the remaining campuses.

"The seventh and eighth graders will be in an A.L.E. program on Blytheville Middle School's campus and the ninth, tenth, eleventh and 12th graders will be at the high school in an A.L.E. program."

Jeromy Field's daughter goes to Central Elementary, she will be a fifth grader in Fall 2013. Field is concerned that more students in each of the buildings will mean less time for quality education. "The more kids you have the less one on one time you have with your students," he said. "I just hope the best for the community."

Supt. Atwill does not anticipate having to terminate any teachers or staff from the schools being closed.

"We have classrooms for every teacher. If we didn't lose a single teacher or a single student from this year to next, we have the capacity for everyone," he said.

"I just want to reassure everyone that even though it's an emotional situation when you close a campus in a school district that this is really positive because with the Common Core state standards, where the natural break is in the standards is grades three, four, five and then six, seven, eight, and then high school. So, it's going to more naturally fit with what the state has in store for us, and it will allow us with three grades at the school to have a larger sense of community."

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