LR dis­trict plan­ning fo­rums on zone map

New high school in ’20 forc­ing re­vamp

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - CYN­THIA HOW­ELL

An­tic­i­pat­ing the open­ing of South­west High School in 2020 and the re­sult­ing re­vi­sions in at­ten­dance zones, Lit­tle Rock School Dis­trict lead­ers will be­gin host­ing com­mu­nity fo­rums next month on op­tions for sys­temwide school changes.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Mike Poore said he would like to present a plan for changes in citywide school use and grade struc­ture to Arkansas Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sioner Johnny Key in late Oc­to­ber.

Key acts as the school board in the state-con­trolled school dis­trict.

Poore an­nounced the pre­lim­i­nary plans for five pub­lic fo­rums late Thurs­day at a lengthy meet­ing of the dis­trict’s seven-mem­ber Com­mu­nity Ad­vi­sory Board, which also re­ceived a re­port on 2018 stu­dent test scores

and on $5.15 mil­lion in staffing cuts made for the com­ing school year.

The fo­rums will be held through­out the dis­trict. McClellan, J.A. Fair, Pin­na­cle View Mid­dle, Dun­bar Mid­dle and the now va­cant Hamil­ton Learn­ing Academy will likely be the sites for the fo­rums — the pur­pose of which is to present op­tions, gather feed­back on those op­tions and so­licit ad­di­tional ideas from the pub­lic. Poore an­tic­i­pates that the first ses­sion will be at the end of Au­gust.

“As South­west High School opens up in 2020, it starts a pos­i­tive domino ef­fect that can im­pact our en­tire dis­trict,” Poore told the ad­vi­sory board, not­ing the al­ready es­tab­lished plans for as­sign­ing McClellan and J.A. Fair high school stu­dents, as well as 300 stu­dents now as­signed to Hall High, to the new high school at Ma­bel­vale Pike and Mann Roads.

“What do you do be­hind that?” he asked about the fates of the va­cant McClellan and Fair cam­puses.

Poore and his staff have pre­vi­ously talked about de­mol­ish­ing much of the McClellan cam­pus and re­build­ing it as a school for grades kinder­garten through eight. The com­bined ele­men­tary and mid­dle school would re­place Cloverdale Mid­dle School, 6300 Hink­son Road, but no plans have been pre­sented to date on how to fill the ele­men­tary grades at such a school.

Poore re­vealed no de­tails Thurs­day but said he and his staff will present as many as three op­tions for the com­mu­nity to con­sider on McClellan, and an­other three pos­si­bil­i­ties for re­pur­pos­ing Fair.

“The good thing about Fair is it is a good build­ing. We can ac­tu­ally move on a so­lu­tion on that im­me­di­ately in 2020. High school stu­dents leave in May and we could open a new thing in Au­gust. The McClellan so­lu­tion will take longer,” he said.

“We have to level that build­ing, and it’s about a $40 mil­lion to $50 mil­lion project. We don’t have the fund­ing right now. It will be 2022 or 2023 be­fore we can come for­ward with that so­lu­tion.”

Changes are in store for the north­west, cen­tral and east sec­tions of the dis­trict as well.

Poore noted that Pin­na­cle View Mid­dle School, 5701 Ranch Drive off Arkansas 10, will grad­u­ate its first class of eighth-graders this com­ing school year, rais­ing the ques­tion about their ninth-grade school as­sign­ment.

“What do we do as a next step there?” he asked. “And what do we do with the of­fice build­ing that is part of that cam­pus?”

Par­ents in the grow­ing north­west part of the city have re­peat­edly asked for a high school in the Don Roberts Ele­men­tary and Pin­na­cle View Mid­dle schools area. The dis­trict was able to open a mid­dle school in 2016 through the pur­chase and ren­o­va­tion of the for­mer Leisure Arts of­fices and ware­house com­plex. He ques­tioned whether ninth grade might be able to stay in the com­plex or whether a ca­reer-tech­ni­cal cen­ter might be placed there.

“We have op­tions that we will present to the com­mu­nity and al­low them to give plus and mi­nuses,” he said.

At the same time, pos­si­bil­i­ties are be­ing drafted for Hall High School. Poore sug­gested that there might be stronger ties made be­tween Hall and For­est Heights STEM Academy that serves kinder­garten through eighth-graders.

“Two or three qual­ity op­tions” are also be­ing de­vel­oped for the Hamil­ton Learn­ing Academy build­ing — for­merly South­west Mid­dle School — that is next to Bale Ele­men­tary, just west of the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock cam­pus, he said.

And the ele­men­tary schools on the dis­trict’s east side are also un­der re­view, in part be­cause the dis­trict has more seats than stu­dents in those build­ings. That’s an ex­pense to a dis­trict that has cut mil­lions of dol­lars of costs in re­cent years in light of stu­dent en­roll­ment de­clines and the end to years of spe­cial de­seg­re­ga­tion aid from the state.

Robert Robin­son of the dis­trict’s hu­man re­sources of­fice re­ported to the Com­mu­nity Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee that the dis­trict has cut 251 po­si­tions for the com­ing school year, a sav­ings of $5.15 mil­lion. Some of those cuts in­clude 12 as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal jobs, 30 class­room teacher po­si­tions, 10 school im­prove­ment spe­cial­ists, and two days off the work year of 164 food ser­vice work­ers.

The dis­trict also has elim­i­nated one spe­cial as­sis­tant to the su­per­in­ten­dent job — the re­sult of clos­ing Franklin Ele­men­tary last year, as well as the as­so­ciate su­per­in­ten­dent po­si­tion held by Dan White­horn, who is re­tir­ing, and two po­si­tions in the hu­man re­sources depart­ment, in­clud­ing that of Rhonda Benton, who was the di­rec­tor of the of­fice.

In light of White­horn’s re­tire­ment, Poore said that he in­tends for Sadie Mitchell, as­so­ciate su­per­in­ten­dent for ele­men­tary ed­u­ca­tion, to be pro­moted to one of two deputy su­per­in­ten­dent po­si­tions. Marvin Bur­ton will con­tinue as deputy su­per­in­ten­dent but will take on the mid­dle school su­per­vi­sion du­ties from White­horn.

As for new staffing for the com­ing year, the dis­trict is seek­ing a prin­ci­pal for McClellan High and 15 spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers, Robin­son said.

Jeff Wood is chair­man of the dis­trict’s ad­vi­sory board. Other mem­bers are LaShan­non Spencer, Lupita Chavar­ria-Gar­cia, Me­lanie Fox, Larry Clark, An­thony Hamp­ton and Michael Ma­son.

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