Delaplaine School Losing Students, May Close Next Year

AUGUST 28, 2006 - Posted at 3:17 p.m. CDT

PARAGOULD, AR - The Greene County Tech School District's superintendent says the district's school at Delaplaine has lost 45 students and may be forced to shut down next year.  Superintendent Shelia Ford said she has no intention of closing the Delaplaine school during the current academic year, but said this year could be the school's last.

She said the drop in enrollment at Delaplaine is costing the district about $300,000 in school funding from the state, and the school was already operating at a deficit of at least $450,000.

The state ordered Delaplaine merged into Greene County Tech in 2004 after each of seven neighboring districts declined to voluntarily absorb Delaplaine, which had 312 students last year.

In 2004, legislators reduced the number of Arkansas school districts from 308 to 254 by requiring districts with fewer than 350 students to merge.  The law included a protection for geographically isolated school districts, requiring the larger district to keep open the school buildings in the smaller district.

The next year, however, legislators dropped that protection and the state Board of Education adopted a regulation that would let local school boards close a school by a unanimous vote.  If a vote is not unanimous, the board could take the case to the state Education Board for approval.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)