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3 NLR schools officially to close

Board vote authorizes move as building plans take shape by Cynthia Howell | March 17, 2012 at 5:16 a.m.

— The North Little Rock School Board has made it official: Belwood Elementary and the Poplar Street and Rose City middle schools will cease to operate beginning with the coming 2012-13 school year as part of the district’s $265.6 million plan for building new schools and renovating others over the next five years.

The closing of the particular school programs was anticipated throughout the campaign for a 7.4-mill school-tax increase approved by voters Feb. 14.

The School Board put it on the record Thursday with a unanimous vote to proceed with the closings.

Superintendent Ken Kirspel told the School Board that the action on the three schools was necessary to begin generating savings in district operating costs. Those savings will be used to help finance the construction projects.

Pupils who would attend Belwood next year will be reassigned to Amboy, Boone Park and North Heights elementaries for the time being, Kirspel said. Amboy and Boone Park are to be rebuilt. North Heights eventually would be closed.

The two middle-school buildings - Rose City and Poplar Street - will be used for different purposes this coming year.

Poplar Street Middle School, which now serves all district sixth-graders, will be repurposed for a time as the 10th-grade campus until the North Little Rock High School-West Campus is expanded to serve all ninth through-12th-graders.

Pupils who will be sixth graders next year will be assigned to Lakewood and Ridgeroad middle schools.

Rose City Middle School is to become the new home to Argenta Academy, which is the district’s alternative school now housed at North Little Rock High-West Campus.

Current plans call for seventh- and eighth-graders who would have been assigned to Rose City Middle to be assigned instead to what is now Ridgeroad Charter Middle School.

The School Board on Thursday authorized Kirspel to ask the state Board of Education for permission to surrender its charter for Ridgeroad.

The district received the state charter for Ridgeroad in 2003 so that it could put into place a longer school day that would feature an emphasis on math, literacy and other academics, plus a diverse set of electives seventh- and eighth graders would take in the afternoons up until 5 p.m.

The addition of sixth-graders to the Ridgeroad campus and other changes would likely require a string of requests to the state for amendments to the charter, Kirspel said in recommending instead the one-time surrender of the charter.

The North Little Rock district’s capital-improvement plan calls for Ridgeroad to eventually become an elementary school for kindergarten through fifth grades.

The School Board also approved Thursday a set of resolutions authorizing district officials to advertise for an employee to oversee the capital-improvement projects as well as plant services in general, and to hire a communications consultant to assist district administrators with disseminating information about the facility projects to the public.

District leaders have pledged to include members of the community in developing the specific plans for the construction and renovation of schools. The capital improvement plan calls for reducing the district’s campuses from 21 to 13 and then renovating or building anew nearly all 13. Rose City as the alternative school would be an exception.

The board adopted Thursday a resolution setting up a general framework for the public involvement. The framework includes an elementary “visionary” team and a secondary “visionary” team, as well as project-planning teams for each campus.

Additionally, the board approved a resolution calling for 20 percent of the district’s annually procured services and goods to be from businesses owned by members of minority groups.

Arkansas, Pages 9 on 03/17/2012

Print Headline: 3 NLR schools officially to close

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