Redfield school supporters seek city’s help in saving building

REDFIELD — A representative of the ad hoc Save Redfield Middle School asked the city’s aldermen Tuesday to take action and make every effort to obtain the school building that is scheduled to close May 31 for use as an open charter school and community youth activities.

Redfield Mayor Tony Lawhon told Greg Farley the municipality does not have a legal standing to obtain the school building.

The White Hall School Board on Jan. 8 voted 4-2 to close the Redfield school at the end of the current school year and transfer the students to White Hall Middle School.

The task force has discussed a number of options available since the January vote, including establishment of an open enrollment charter school, asking the state Board of Education for the former Redfield School District to withdraw from the White Hall district and reverse the merger of 1950, and home schooling Redfield students.

Farley blamed apathy on the current status, adding that task force members are concerned that the White Hall district may decide in the future to close Hardin Elementary School in Redfield.

Todd Dobbins, who chairs the task force, told the Redfield City Council Tuesday that the organization is facing a looming deadline on applying for charter school status for the 2014-15 school year.

Farley said 800 Redfield residents have signed a petition in support of a charter school.

“We need the city’s leaders to move forward,” Farley said. “We need the city to take action. We need the council to stand up and say we are tired of being run over.”

Farley asked the city to file a civil suit in an effort to dissolve the 1950 agreement merging the White Hall district and the former Redfield district.

He also asked the city to obtain a “line by line audit” of maintenance on the two schools in Redfield since 2006, contending the two schools have been “denied equal money.”

Lawhon said the council can’t address withdrawing from the White Hall district because the municipality has no legal standing on the issue. “There is not much we can do.”

City Attorney Margaret Dobson said the council “can ask all day long (to obtain the building), but it won’t happen … (there are) limits on what the city can do.”

Dobbins said the task force members are “worried Redfield children will be punished” and seek a “sense of direction” from the municipality.

“What are we going to sue for?” asked Alderman Darrell Hedden. White Hall’s enrollment is dropping, he added, and the decisions made by the White Hall district’s directors are “political and financial.”

Lawhon recommended putting a “lawsuit behind us and working on a charter school.”

In other action Tuesday, aldermen:

• Discussed the possibility of annexing the Arkansas Entergy White Bluff steam generating plant, but took no action.

• Authorized Realtor Gary Case to list 8.4 acres of undeveloped residential property in Cabot that has been donated to the city. Case said he would recommend listing the property for $60,000 and accept $50,000 to sell the land.