State Board of Education votes to close Weiner H.S. - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

State Board of Education votes to close Weiner H.S.

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LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) – The future of Weiner High School became clear this week.

The State Board of Education agreed Monday morning to close the school after a lengthy debate between Harrisburg School District officials and Weiner High School supporters.

The state board members voted 5 to 2 in favor of a proposal submitted by Harrisburg Superintendent Danny Sample to close the high school, effective July 1.

The decision disappointed Weiner school supporters, who have vowed that the fight to keep their school open is far from over.

"We're disappointed, but we don't give up the fight here," said Michelle Cadle, a vocal WHS supporter. "This is what we call round one."

Cadle and other supporters are now counting on a new piece of legislation that they say would void the state board's decision to close their school.

"I think if you took 12 people off the street, and they heard the testimony that was presented [by Weiner] today – it would take them about 30 seconds to make what I think is a no-brainer decision," said State Rep. Randy Alexander of Springdale.

Alexander, a Republican, filed House Bill 1938 last Friday on behalf of Weiner High School. The legislation would halt any campuses from merging for two years until further study is given to the effects of Act 60, which requires all schools with 350 students or less – like Weiner – to be consolidated or annexed.

The Weiner district was annexed into the Harrisburg School District in 2010 after its enrollment dipped below 350 students.

"I hope that we get this bill passed, that we put a stop to it," Alexander said, "and we take the time to really evaluate what the impact of Act 60 has been overall, which this board has not done and make a decision based on facts."

"We want everyone to contact their representatives," Cadle said. "There are about 17 schools that are coming up on the Act 60 list, and there are a multitude of legislators that need to be contacted to get this bill passed.

"This will benefit Weiner," she added, "because it will be retroactive to January 1, and that would void the board's decision today [to close Weiner High School]."

With the bill pending, Harrisburg Superintendent Danny Sample says the district will now begin preparing to house the seventh through 12th grade students from Weiner and hopefully mend fences.

"We have to learn how not to be reactionary," he said, "but have the best interests of all those young people [in mind] right now and in the future to come. I think that will take some time, but we will make it happen."

Sample sought approval to close Weiner High School to not only save the district money but also provide students with more academic opportunities.

The Harrisburg School District will allow Weiner students in kindergarten through sixth grade to remain at the Weiner Elementary School campus for at least a year, as school officials oversee finances.

 "I know the Weiner community as well as the Harrisburg community wants what is best for all schools," he added, "and we're going to try to make the best of this decision."

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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