Redfield council joins push for charter school

REDFIELD – The Redfield City Council on Tuesday evening agreed to petition the White Hall School Board to turn over Redfield Middle School at the end of the school year to a non-profit organization for use as a proposed open charter school.

In the event the charter school “misfires,” the middle school, constructed in the late 19030s by the WPA, would revert to the municipality, the proposal stated.

The Keep Redfield Middle School Task Force is seeking 503(c)(3) nonprofit status under the Internal Revenue Code to operate a charter school, task force chairman Todd Dobbins told aldermen.

The White Hall School Board voted Jan. 8 to close the Redfield school at the end of the current school year and transfer Redfield students to White Hall Middle School.

Dobbins said earlier that opening a charter school may be the community’s best option for keeping a middle school in Redfield. Sponsors of a charter school must submit a letter of intent to the state by June 1, he added.

Task force members met Friday with Arkansas Department of Education officials to review the options, Dobbins said, and realize that “we will have lost our school for a year” with the White Hall board’s decision.

It would be the 2014-2015 school year before an open charter school could become operational in Redfield, he added.

An August opinion issued by the office of Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in response to a question from a Dover state representative indicated there is no “simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (answer)” to the question of a school district selling, donating or leasing abandoned buildings and property to non-profit organizations and government entities.

A district can donate a building no longer in use under a number of circumstances, the opinion stated.

Aldermen voted to ask to address the school board Feb. 12 and submit a request that the school building be donated to “Keep Redfield Middle School 503(c)(3)” for use as a charter school.

The council voted 5-1 to take the proposal to the school board. Alderman Diann Smith cast the only “no” vote, saying she wanted more time to digest the seven-page legal opinion.

The council also held a called meeting a week earlier in the quest for keeping a middle school in the community.

Aldermen also discussed a sales tax on prepared food – frequently called a “hamburger tax” – at the request of Mayor Tony Lawhon. He said he wanted aldermen to consider a tax for municipal revenues, encouraging the six to ask residents if they would be in favor of a levy to benefit municipal services.

City Attorney Margaret Dobson recommended that the council take time to look at all the potential options involving a tax, adding that feedback from residents is crucial