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State Board of Education denies petition to close down Umpire School District

Tyler Broyles, the superintendent of the Cossatot River School District,
Arkansas PBS
Tyler Broyles, the superintendent of the Cossatot River School District, testifies before the State Board of Education. Broyles said the enrollment for the Umpire School District continues to drop and students would be better served moving to other districts.

The State Board of Education denied a petition that would have closed down the Umpire School District during a meeting on Friday. The board said the denial of the petition was a way for the issue to be revisited at a later date, after it has had more time to review the finances of the district.

Prior to the vote, the Board heard testimony on why the district should be closed down from Tyler Broyles, the superintendent of the Cossatot River School District. Broyles said students at the district would be better served moving into other districts.

“We’re seeing a steady decline [in enrollment]. This year, we’re at 92 and last year we were at 99 in enrollment. It’s projected the ADM [average daily membership] for next year will be in the high eighties,” he said.

Linda Kitchens, a former teacher for the Umpire School District, said that despite the smaller class sizes, the school is not under academic distress. She also said smaller classes are a benefit to students.

“The law says that the only reason you can close a campus is financial or academic distress. We are not in academic distress. We are a B-rated school. We do this with classrooms that are combined,” Kitchens said.

The Cossatot River School Board voted to close the Umpire School District in October, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Since the decision to close the school district was not unanimous, a petition was sent to the State Board of Education to decide whether or not to close the school.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.