Act 60 may see changes with new governor

Act 60 may see changes with new governor

ARMOREL, AR (KAIT) - Small schools across the state have been closed due to Act 60. This act requires schools to keep a certain number of students regardless of financial status or academic achievement.

Governor Asa Hutchinson made it clear in his campaign he would look to make changes to this law. With changes being possible, it means some schools that are still fighting to stay open could see relief.

Armorel School District is not in jeopardy, but it is one of the few small schools left in Region 8.

With 428 students kindergarten through 12th grade, Armorel administrators continue to watch enrollment.

Art work and projects line the school's hallways, showing pride in their success. Rylee Nelson, Armorel sophomore, said she wouldn't want to go to a big school.

"I like being able to know everyone in my class, and I like being able to be friends with everyone," Nelson said.

Katie Weld, Armorel sophomore, said she wouldn't want to leave the school she's attended since pre-school.

"It's like home really because I've been here my whole life," Weld said.

Administrators feel the same. Joey Carr, elementary principal, said there are advantages to small schools. At a recent open house, parent participation was exceptional.

"Out of our 224 students, we had 155 that were represented," Carr said. "That is right at 70%. So we were pleased with our community involvement."

He said small schools provide an honest and positive environment for students.

"Trust is ingrained," Carr said. "It's developed and sustained throughout their thirteen years here."

It's clear those at Armorel are proud of their school. Students and faculty said they never want to see it closed like so many other rural school districts.

While Armorel isn't in jeopardy of closing, Sally Bennett, superintendent, said Act 60 is always on her mind.

"You never know what the future is going to hold," Bennett said. "With some of the activity with some of the bills, to have a waiver for that 350 number that would provide a cushion for us."

Such a waiver would allow financially sound and academically successful schools, like Armorel, to stay open regardless if enrollment dropped below 350.

Bennett said it could be a game changer.

"Some sense of relief, I think, to the community to know that as long as we continue to succeed we have that in place," Bennett said.

Students said they love the small school environment, and Bennett said parents deserve the option to send their children to small or large schools.

"Student's needs are different, and different schools have different things they can provide to students, and parents should have the opportunity to send their children where they think their children's needs can best be met," Bennett said.

The potential changes are still in the beginning stages. Governor Hutchinson has formed a committee to look at the law.

Those who have seen schools in Region 8 close and consolidate said changes would mean a lot because it would save other communities from losing its school.

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