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Redfield airs solutions to keep school open

REDFIELD – Short-term and long-term plans, including legal action, have been discussed should the White Hall School District decide to close Redfield Middle School, more than 100 Redfield residents were told during an Oct. 23 meeting at the American Legion Post.

Mayor Tony Lawhon said Tuesday morning the legal fund now includes “nearly by $5,000” donated by local residents.

Lawhon, who chaired the standing-room-only Oct. 23 meeting, said a task force has been formed to convince the White Hall School Board that it would not be in the best interests of Redfield students and the community to close the middle school.

The mayor told the crowd that he met several months earlier with Superintendent Dr. Larry Smith after hearing rumors steps might be taken to close the middle school, adding he was told the facility might be considered for closure in 2014.

“I was shocked” to learn the decision could come in early 2013, Lawhon said.

He encouraged Redfield residents to attend every school board meeting and “become a thorn in their flesh until they hear our story.”

Redfield has potential for growth after receiving authority to extend water and sewer lines under Interstate 530, opening up thousands of acres for development, crowd was told, and the proposed growth would stop if the school is closed.

The task force began collecting monies for a legal defense fund if an effort is made by the board to close the school and the decision is appealed to the Arkansas Board of Education.

Members of the local group have established a Facebook page to keep communications lines open, Lawhon said.

Financial options and issues, including closure of the Redfield school, were discussed by the White Hall board Sept. 25 during a three-hour planning session. No votes were taken on any issues during the meeting.

A large delegation from Redfield appeared at the October board meeting and residents were encouraged at the community meeting to continue to attend future board meetings to make sure their message is heard.

The White Hall district has operated the middle school and Hardin Elementary School on separate campuses at Redfield since the former Redfield School District was merged with the White Hall district in the late 1940s.

Smith indicated the district board is required to review the district’s master facilities plan annually, noting the potential savings on closing the Redfield school and busing its students to White Hall Middle School.

The meeting was announced on the Facebook page established after the White Hall School Board briefly discussed the closing as one option for keeping the district fiscally solvent.

Smith said the board is required to review the district’s master facilities plan annually, including the potential savings for closing the Redfield school, a WPA-era building constructed in 1930, and busing its students to White Hall Middle School.