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Community Debates whether to relocate Parkview High School

Community members voice their opposition to a plan to relocate students at Parkview Arts/Science Magnet High School to Hall.
Josie Lenora
/
Little Rock Public Radio
Community members voice their opposition to a plan to relocate students at Parkview Arts/Science Magnet High School to Hall.

District Superintendent Jermall Wright says he will not relocate a Little Rock High School. He announced this at a town hall at the West Central Community Center, down the street from Parkview Arts/Science Magnet High School.

The school has existed in Little Rock since 1968.

The Little Rock School board considered a proposal to relocate the students to Hall High School across town, leaving the building on John Barrow Road empty. The proposal was initially suggested by Parkview football coach Bobby Bolding, and an assistant principal at Forest Heights named Nickolous Anderson.

This comes after several schools in the LRSD have been closed or relocated. In the past month, Little Rock West High School of Innovation—which only had about 200 students—was relocated to Hall High School. Hall has slightly higher operations costs but around the same number of students. Several elementary schools in the LRSD have also closed or been repurposed.

For the past few years, the district had planned to build a high school in West Little Rock. Officials expected to spend around $80 million on construction. Recently, the school found out that the cost could be over $150 million. The LRSD is still in the early stages of construction, but it is undergoing significant financial hardship. Enrollment numbers are dropping across the district and there is not enough funding to support current operations. Now, the district may have to choose between giving money to the new unfinished school or using it to improve the schools that already exist. The proposal suggests relocating students to this West Little Rock High school eventually, but very little construction has been done on the new building.

Vicki Hatter, a member of the school board, says the district has to decide which school to keep open.

“We can do the hard things,” Hatter said several times throughout the meeting. She explained to Little Rock Public Radio that the district needs to cut $16 million from the budget.

“Parkview only comes into play if this new high school gets built,” she said. “We have more buildings than we have students.”

Hatter, who ran the town hall, hoped to hear from the public before making the decision.

“By 2025, we're going to have a smaller, leaner district,” Hatter said. “But that doesn't mean we are going to have a weaker district.”

She went around the packed room and let locals take turns talking about the proposal.

She asked the crowd what they thought when they heard the word “relocation.”

“Death of the neighborhood,” Essie Middleton, a community member, responded. “We’re not ready to give up Parkview.”

The community was overwhelmingly opposed to the relocation plan. Virtually every community member that spoke, including many Parkview alums, expressed support for keeping the school intact.

Andrea Lewis, who serves Ward 6 on the City Board of Directors said: “we want funds to go to that school to enhance what they have. Parkview does not need to leave 2501 John Barrow Road. The community is a people. How will you replicate that going out west?”

Leron McAdoo, a teacher at Little Rock Central agreed.

“If I’m broke I am not going to buy something new,” he said. “If I have more schools than students, why am I building another school?”

Superintendent Jermall Wright worked to calm down the crowd, explaining that shutting down Parkview was just a proposal.

“We were not sure if we were going to have the kids to populate every single building,” he said. “What I am hearing today is that there is not enough support going forward.” The crowd made audible noises of agreement before he ended.

“So, that's not going to go forward.”

Former Circuit Judge Alice Gray asked Hatter to list off the school closings that had happened in the LRSD. The group went through the names of schools that had closed: Wilson, Hamilton, Ish, Southwest Jr. High, Romine, David O’Dodd, Henderson, Franklin, Booker and Meadowcliff.

Note: Josie Lenora graduated from Parkview High Arts/Science Magnet High School in 2015.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.