Panel asks board for 1 year to prove Redfield school needed

WHITE HALL — Representatives of the ad hoc task force opposed to the proposed closure of Redfield Middle School asked the White Hall School Board Thursday for another year to prove Redfield’s growth pattern warrants keeping the school open.

Task force members acknowledged that the enrollment and financial data cited by the board are realistic issues. Todd Dobbins, who has headed the task force, said he has “gained respect” for the board and Superintendent Larry Smith, acknowledging they have a “tough job and it’s not going to get easier.”

Rumors that circulated in Redfield after the proposed closure was raised in a board planning session in the fall put the Redfield “community into a panic,” Dobbins added.

He cited residential developments and potential economic projects in Redfield that will add enrollment to the White Hall district.

Board President Scott Pittillo said the board asked Smith to obtain the latest data on funding, facilities and enrollment, critical information that will be used to make a decision on the proposed closure of a building constructed in the 1930s.

Smith’s report was furnished to board and task force members, with the superintendent noting few changes other than Congress “kicked the can down the road six months.”

Funding issues will be firmed up when the General Assembly meets later this month, but administrators can make some educated estimates with the information available, Smith said.

The district can save $382,000 to $400,000 in staffing costs annually by closing Redfield Middle School and moving the students to White Hall Middle School, he said.

While the task force has discussed petitioning the Arkansas Board of Education for authority to operate a carter school in Redfield if the middle school is closed, the issue was not raised Thursday.

No decision was reached during the discussion and no timeframe was established on when the board will resolve the closure issue.

The regular monthly board meeting is set for Tuesday evening.