LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The Little Rock School District has begun laying out which schools are headed for changes in the next five years. Anyone with kids or grandkids in elementary or middle schools today should expect new high school experiences based on the results of a “blueprint” released Tuesday.
"The landscape is always changing in our school environments,” said Michael Poore, superintendent of the state-controlled district. “It's changing in the state of Arkansas and obviously it's changing right here in the Little Rock School District.”
The 21-page report indicates the changing landscape will be most apparent in the southwest part of the city. Three of the city's current five high schools are going away or shedding programs.
“We know that Southwest High School is a game-changer,” Poore said of the new facility under construction and set to open in 2020. “Because of that situation, it actually then plays out for us as a domino opportunity on remodeling and revitalizing other areas within our district.”
The student bodies from J.A. Fair High School and McClellan High will fill the new school. From there the plan calls for Fair to convert to a K-8 school. McClellan would follow. The English as Second Language program at Hall High would end and would focus more heavily on its established STEM and career advancement programs.
The dominoes then lead to Cloverdale Middle and elementary schools Baseline and Meadowcliff giving way to McClellan. Henderson Middle and Romine and Dodd Elementary would feed into J.A. Fair.
The blueprint offers ideas on what to do with the buildings that would become “repurposed.”
In West Little Rock, there may be disappointment among those expecting a new high school. Pinnacle View Middle School will add a 9th grade, but that’s it. The district will explore how to best utilize the remaining unused commercial space in the old Leisure Arts building.
“This challenge that we have in the northwest is that our community really seeks a large high school,” Poore said noting how the decades-long desegregation settlement with the state lingers over all these plans. “We have a commitment first and foremost to make sure we take care of kids on the south end. That was part of the lawsuit settlement.”
Bale Elementary will condense into a birth to 3rd-grade school. It’s twin, the former Hamilton Learning Academy taking in 4th-8th grades with a magnet STEM and dual language focus.
Blueprint meetings downtown stressed pre-K options, and so Rockefeller Elementary would expand to take that on.
This plan is supposed to save money, but Poore says the district still needs $300 million to fully fund improving all the facilities that need it. That includes McClellan, where he hopes to start the transition in 2020, but all the money hasn’t been raised yet.
The public gets to offer feedback starting Thursday night at the scheduled Community Advisory Board Meeting. After Poore shares his thoughts, a week-long survey will open to get more feedback.
From there it will need to be approved by state education commissioner Johnny Key, who oversees the district while it is under state control.
“I commend Mr. Poore and the LRSD team for their work in creating this roadmap to improved academic facilities for students in the district,” Key said in a statement. “The Community Blueprint addresses a combination of long-standing needs such as the growing demand for PreK and the replacement of the Cloverdale campus, emerging needs in high-growth areas of Little Rock served by the Pinnacle View campus and effective repurposing of facilities like the McClellan and J.A. Fair campuses. I look forward to getting feedback from the Community Advisory Board prior to consideration of the final recommendations.”