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LINCOLN -- The School Board decided last week to change the district's student transfer policy to say the board will not approve requests for legal transfers out of the district, except for extraordinary circumstances as recommended by the superintendent.

The new policy takes effect July 1.

This general policy doesn't affect students who apply for a transfer under the Public School Choice Act of 2015.

The school choice law allows students to transfer outside the district in which they live but with limitation. As an example, districts under court order to desegregate can choose not to allow transfers. Schools at capacity also can turn down applications from out of district students through school choice.

To apply under school choice parents must submit applications by a May 1 deadline to the nonresident district.

For the 2020-21 school year, Lincoln has 30 students transferring to other districts through the school choice law, Superintendent Mary Ann Spears told board members. The district is gaining two students through school choice.

Under the previous policy for legal transfers, the School Board would consider requests twice a year, at the July and December meetings.

Spears said she had received two requests for legal transfers that missed the school choice May 1 deadline and will look over the circumstances for those students.

The School Board has discussed changing the policy before but hasn't taken any action.

Board member Kendra Moore said she believes the district is at a "tipping point" because of declining student enrollment. Districts receive state money based on student enrollment.

"Until they fund schools differently, I think it is in our best interest," Moore said.

Spears said the new policy is the same one used by Rogers School District. Policies differ across the state. Spears said most allow legal transfers during the school year.

Both Farmington and Prairie Grove school districts will take in Lincoln students through school choice, according to officials from those districts.

Farmington approved 81 school choice applications for students to transfer into the district, including 36 from Prairie Grove and 11 from Lincoln, according to Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Pinkerton. Farmington has 24 students who are leaving through school choice,

Prairie Grove approved 37 students transferring in through school choice, 18 from Lincoln and eight from Farmington, according to Darlene Burris in the central office.

In other news, Spears said Lincoln High School will have an invitation-only graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 at 8 p.m. July 25 at the football field. Each senior will be allowed to invite four guests to the program.

Spears said the school will follow Arkansas Department of Health guidelines that apply to large gatherings during the covid-19 pandemic. Arkansas is in Phase 2 of these guidelines, which will allow about 66% occupancy at the stadium.

Each graduate will receive four tickets for family members or other guests. Graduates will come in one gate at the football stadium, and guests will use another gate.

The board approved a refunding bond issue that will save the district $958,894 in interest payments over the life of the new bond issue. The district will save $100,000 the first year, according to Spears.

Spears said the net savings is more than double what was anticipated from refinancing a May 1, 2015, bond issue.

The district received four bids to sell $4.3 million in refunding bonds that will mature Feb. 1, 2029. SunTrust Robinson Humphrey submitted the lowest bid with an average interest rate of 1.58%. First National Bank of Lawrence County in Walnut Ridge will serve as bond trustee.

The board accepted the bid from SunTrust.

After an executive session, the board accepted resignations from Zach Vest, assistant high school principal, and Nicole Avitts, first grade teacher.

The board also decided to delay a project to repair the high school parking lot and construct a turn lane from the high school onto U.S. 62.

Spears recommended waiting until next spring, noting the school has a lot on its plate at the high school campus: graduation, starting school within covid-19 guidelines and using the high school kitchen to provide meals to send out to students during the summer.

More News

Teacher promotion

In a special meeting June 18, Lincoln’s School Board named teacher/coach Emilianne Slamons as the new Lincoln High assistant principal. She replaces Zach Vest, who resigned after one year for a position with Huntsville School District.

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