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The Arkansas Department of Education clears up misinformation regarding Pine Bluff High expansion

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Little Rock, Arkansas – After rumors circulated throughout the community that decisions were final, The Arkansas Department of Education wants to make it clear that no final decision has been made regarding a new high school in Pine Bluff.

“There is no final decision. We are trying to figure out what to do,” said Stacy Smith, deputy commissioner of the ADE’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Proposals are still underway. “We have to decide what we do about the high school campus and the current situation we’re in. One of the proposals was to remove the students from the high school campus until a new high school is built because they have partnership money now to build the new high school,” said Smith.

With this proposal, the district is getting a lot of pushback. “Students have voiced concerns about feeling like they are being pushed back to their old junior high, which isn’t their high school. The community is characterizing this as an attack on their historic high school. In us doing something like this, it would result in multiple grades and staff moving buildings throughout the district. It would be very difficult,” said Smith.

A second proposal being considered is to reduce the number of students at Pine Bluff High School to tenth through twelfth grade. “That would basically impact sixth-graders and ninth-graders,” said Smith. “We would keep ninth-graders at their current campus. We would push sixth grade down into the elementary school. We did have a city official encourage the district to look at doing K-8 schools, so the K-6 thing is kind of in line with that.”

Along with hearing from a parent advisory committee, Superintendent Barbara Warren plans to set up meetings with teachers that would be impacted at these grade levels.

The final option, which seems to be the community and student favorite, is for students and staff to remain at the current Pine Bluff High School campus. “If we were to keep kids at the Pine Bluff High School, we need to put fencing around the current campus. The thought of putting up a really tight, secure fence has mixed views, but we’ve got to keep people off the campus. We’ve got to limit our entry points to the campus. The campus is still open. The buildings are still open. Kids have to be able to travel back and forth, but we have got to be able to control who’s coming onto the campus during the day,” said Smith. “We’ve got some really difficult decisions to make and Mrs. Warren will make some recommendations to that soon. Student safety is the priority here. No final decision has been made.”

 

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