Redfield council to consider helping with school effort

REDFIELD — The Redfield City Council agreed during a called a meeting Tuesday evening to meet again in one week in an effort to determine if the municipality can play a role in keeping Redfield Middle School open or help with the development of a charter school.

City Attorney Margaret Dobson said she did some preliminary legal research at the request of Mayor Tony Lawhon and determined the municipality could help fund legal action, but only if the city is the legal client of an attorney hired for the work.

Education law is a specialized field, she noted, and outside the scope of her legal practice.

Aldermen Larry O’Briant, Darrell Hedden and Glen Flemmons initiated the called meeting to determine what action, if any, the city could take.

The Keep Redfield Middle School Task Force asked Redfield residents Jan. 17 for support and direction on keeping the school open in the wake of the White Hall School Board’s Jan. 8 decision to close the Redfield school at the end of the current school year.

Todd Dobbins, chairman of the task force, said there are two viable options: Fight the closure by contending the school board took the action to block integration and opening a charter school. The latter is probably the most practical step if state officials agree to waive the deadline for filing for an open charter school, he added.

Task force representatives are meeting Friday with state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell to make a pitch for waiving the deadline, Dobbins said.

Hedden earlier said he had hoped the task force would hire an attorney early in the campaign to keep the middle school open.

If the middle school is closed, the community expects the White Hall district to turn the building over to the municipality for use by local residents “with no strings attached,” Hedden said recently.

Dobbins said Redfield will need a building to house an open enrollment charter school, but believes the White Hall district would oppose use of the building for a charter school.

City officials were asked to speak with the school board about releasing the building to the municipality once the school is formally closed.

Other options discussed Tuesday included seeking an injunction if a court to reverse the closure of the Redfield school and seeking approval for the former Redfield School District to withdraw from the 1950 merger with the White Hall district.

A legal fight could prove costly and time consuming, Dobbins said the task force has determined.

Lawhon suggested the 7 p.m. special council meeting on Tuesday to resolve any questions not answered during Tuesday’s called meeting.