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Seward’s Folly, Alaska and Redfield

The most valuable asset the White Hall School District has is good schools with athletic facilities that many colleges cannot offer. Where did most of this wealth for these facilities come from: The White Bluff power plant at Redfield on the Arkansas River.

Redfield has been in the district for 62 years and when looking for ways to get out of a financial crisis or cut cost, Redfield is the first place they look. This school closing situation reminds me of Seward’s Folly and Alaska. Redfield is where they might find more gold.

As we all know, since this windfall of money about 1980, state legislation was eventually passed and wealthy districts like White Hall had a drawdown of funds, sharing with poorer districts. I agree with that and believe all children, rural, poor, or whatever should have an equal opportunity at education.

Many rural children are already disadvantaged and busing adds to this because it means many more hours of transportation time. Putting more distance between the parent and child’s school will lessen the chance for inclusion and parental involvement.

Jefferson County is looking at a population shift and I do think the future growth of the county is in Redfield because of I-530, river and rail access, nearness to metropolitan Little Rock and 25 minutes to the airport.

Redfield and White Hall could both benefit from this shift if we can find common ground. Shutting down our school is not the answer.

White Hall would benefit by looking for future revenue coming from Redfield, as in the power plant. In the mid-1980s we were a serious contender for the Saturn auto plant.

This lopsided spending of the district’s money has to stop. Return our 9th grade, put concrete in the ground at the Redfield Middle School, and keep the words of the 1950 resolution: A standard elementary and junior high will be maintained in Redfield. Those forefathers, in signing that resolution, were looking at the future to make sure the children of Redfield were not disenfranchised.

Without grade nine, our athletic program is greatly diminished, playing a few private schools and having to compete with schools with 9th graders.

The money is long gone, but a few cuts in planned athletic programs could add classrooms at Redfield Middle School. The White Hall School Board should show good faith and recognize the accomplishments of Redfield schools.

Recent test results show these to be highest performing schools in the district. Shutting down high performing schools looks like punishment for success.

Closure of this school may put 50 miles or more between the parent and child, some as young as age 10. Students will be bused south when most parents are 20 to 30 miles north.

How will they be able to participate in after school activities when tied up in rush hour traffic trying to get out of Little Rock? As a person with a background in education, I can confidently say that educational research bears out the fact that parental involvement is paramount to a child’s success in school.

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Linda Rinehart Banks is a resident of Redfield and Hot Springs Village. A 1960 graduate of White Hall High School, she taught for three decades in the White Hall district, including 26 years as the district’s gifted and talented coordinator.