Springdale superintendent says district will be fine amid LEARNS Act changes

Springdale Public Schools Administration Offices (File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

SPRINGDALE -- Springdale School District Superintendent Jared Cleveland reassured the School Board on Tuesday in light of changes coming as a result of the education overhaul that recently became law.

"We're going to be OK," Cleveland said.

Springdale, with 21,801 students enrolled as of October, is the state's largest school district. Like all other districts, Springdale is waiting for loose ends to be tied up in the LEARNS Act before formulating plans and moving forward.

Cleveland told the board he knows the legislation's intent is for the changes to better education. Whatever is needed moving forward, whether more money or support, the district will supply, he said.

"We're going to have the buses running," he said. "The lights are going to come on. Our goal is for our staff and our kids and our families to not know that the LEARNS Act or anything else can disrupt their life at all. So that's our goal. And I believe we can do that."

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the LEARNS Act into law March 8.

The act features school vouchers, a $14,000 raise in the state's minimum salary for teachers, a dual diploma for high school students learning a trade and a repeal of the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act.

Kendra Clay, the Springdale district's general counsel, summed up the situation educators face.

"I think last month I talked about all the unknowns," Clay said. "And I don't have much more information here today."

Because of all the changes eventually coming, Clay said she's working on a document that outlines and summarizes everything approved in the LEARNS Act. She'll get that information to those who need it, including principals, teachers and counselors. Clay expects to have the document finished in the next week or so and said it'll include any needed policy updates and when rules and regulations go into effect.

"We can look at that as a team and say, 'OK, what do we need to do?'" Clay said. "It's expansive work."