REDFIELD — The board of directors behind a proposed Redfield Tri-County Charter School have submitted an application to the Arkansas Department of Education to establish the school.
Also this week, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program announced that the former Redfield Middle School building — where the proposed charter school would be located — will be considered for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Redfield Tri-County Charter School board of directors secretary Amanda Kight said that the proposed charter school would serve students in Jefferson, Grant and Pulaski counties.
“A lot of people want charter schools because they offer smaller classes and personalized attention,” Kight said. “We have gauged interest from people in the community and believe there is enough interest for the charter school.”
The idea behind the proposed charter school crystallized after the closure of the former Redfield Middle School in May 2013, Kight said. After an initial attempt failed last year, the board hopes to receive approval of the application it submitted to the state Tuesday to open the charter school in the former middle school building at 101 School St.
The charter school would initially enroll students in grades five through eight and later expand by one grade level each year, she said. She expects the first-year enrollment to be 25 students in fifth grade and 50 students apiece for sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
“We are proposing a family environment with a focus on science, technology, education and math,” Kight said. “We will focus on college preparedness and career readiness. … We are not competing with public schools but we offer another choice.”
Funding would come from the state government, private foundation grants and the federal government’s free and reduced lunch program, Kight said. Teachers who are currently working in other towns have expressed an interest for the proposed charter school in Redfield, Kight said.
The Charter Authorizing Panel will conduct a hearing at a public meeting and will either accept or reject the application, said Mary Perry from the Arkansas Department of Education Office of the Assistant Commission Division via email.
The State Board of Education will have the option to review the decision made by the panel, she said. If the board chooses not to review a panel decision, the panel’s decision is final, she said. If the State Board of Education votes to review a panel decision, the board will conduct a public hearing at a subsequent meeting and make a decision. The decision of the state board is then final, Perry said.
The Charter Authorizing Panel is scheduled to conduct open-enrollment applicant hearings in October, Perry said. If the panel makes a final decision at that time, the state board will consider whether to review the panel’s decision in November, she said. If the board decides to review the panel’s decision, the board will conduct a hearing at a later meeting.
According to a Commercial article published in December 2013, the state panel unanimously rejected the initial proposal based on curriculum and financial issues.
Getting the approval for the charter school to come into existence is a major obstacle, Kight said. Teachers salaries would start at about $37,000, although they would be higher based on experience, Kight said.
“It is hard to start a school,” Kight said. “A lot of decisions depend on money. Money is tight for public and charter schools. We need parents interested in sending their students there and a place where children feel they belong, like to learn and participate.”
The Redfield School building was built between 1910 and 1939. The building will be considered for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places by the State Review Board of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program on Aug. 6, according to a press release issued Wednesday by AHPP.
“The Redfield School Historic District represents the educational center for the town of Redfield,” according to the press release. “Having served as the community’s school campus from at least the 1910s until the school’s closure in 2013, the campus has been a significant part of the town’s educational life for approximately 100 years. The construction of the main building by the WPA in 1939 also represents the New Deal’s only known influence on Redfield.”
Multiple phone calls made to Larry O’Briant, president of the Redfield Tri-County Charter School, were not returned by press time.