LITTLE ROCK — The state Board of Education on Thursday granted the Strong-Huttig School District in Union County a waiver allowing the district to avoid mandatory consolidation despite dwindling enrollment.
The district requested the waiver under Act 1263 of 2015, which created a way for some school districts to avoid a requirement in state law that a district with enrollment that falls below 350 for two consecutive years be consolidated with another district.
To qualify for a waiver, a district must not be in academic, fiscal or facilities distress; must not be on probation for failing to meet accreditation standards; must show that it has adequate facilities; and must show that it would be in the best interest of students to keep the district open because of the potential length of bus rides to another district if it were to close.
The Strong-Huttig district was removed from academic-distress status two years ago, although its high school is currently in academic distress. The district currently has 311 students and has had declining enrollment for the past four years.
Strong-Hutting Superintendent Jeffery Alphin told the Education Board on Thursday the district is financially solvent despite its low enrollment and is creating an atmosphere of continual improvement in the classroom.
He said the district is working to attract students who may have transferred out of the district by, among other things, publicizing its progress on social media and improving the appearance of its campuses.
“We wanted to continue to campaign to show them that we do have good things going in our district and that they should return,” Alphin said.
The board voted unanimously to approve the waiver, although member Jay Barth of Little Rock recommended that the district consider voluntarily moving toward consolidation in the future.
“Unless there is a magical re-entry of a significant number of students into this district, this is a very precarious picture,” he said.