A federal judge has delayed a decision on whether to approve a separation agreement between the Pulaski County Special School District and the newly formed Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District until at least next month.
U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., the judge presiding over the Pulaski County desegregation lawsuit, on Thursday heard from attorneys representing both districts and an attorney for black students known as the Joshua intervenors about the agreement, which last week was unanimously approved by the state Board of Education.
But Arkansas Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, an attorney representing the Joshua intervenors, said they had not been involved sufficiently in the negotiations and had "serious reservations" on several fronts, including fairness in selecting contractors and architects as Jacksonville develops a facilities plan.
Walker asked Marshall for time to file briefs in writing detailing the issues in more depth. The judge agreed, giving him until Aug. 31 to do so. The two districts have until Sept. 4 to respond after that.
"My sense is both the new district and [PCSSD] need to know an answer to this sooner rather than later," Marshall said. "So we've all got to operate with one eye on the clock."
Marshall said he would only rule on the aspects of the agreement related to desegregation, saying other parts of the pact that don't involve desegregation matters won't require his approval.
Marshall also ordered the two districts and the Joshua intervenors to meet monthly on their own to discuss facilities pending the next court conference in the case, which is set for Dec. 16.
The separation agreement details the division of assets like school buses and buildings, how to handle staff plans and records transfers, and how to split up state desegregation money that will be paid to Pulaski County through 2018. It also sets a July 1, 2016, date for the formal detachment of the Jacksonville district.
See Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full coverage.