CAMDEN -- The Harmony Grove School Board voted 5-2 to move 40 Sparkman High School students in grades 7-12 to Harmony Grove High School.
At a special board meeting on Tuesday, Harmony Grove School District Superintendent Al Snow said the low number of students made continued use of the Sparkman High School campus unsustainable.
"At this time, there are 108 students K-12 at the Sparkman school. Eleven of them are seniors. After they graduate, it will be 97 students. ... In my office I have three school choice requests to go to a school other than Sparkman; if they continue with that, it will be 94 students -- 54 students grade first through sixth and 40 at the high school. That's not sustainable," he said.
Snow stated that no kindergartners had yet enrolled for 2023.
Snow noted that since Arkansas is a school choice state, students would have the option to go to other area schools such as Fordyce, Bearden or Arkadelphia.
He stated that the emergency meeting was called so those students, if they choose, could meet the school choice application deadline of May 1.
Harmony Grove High School Principal Jeff Mock noted that there were also 15 open seats for virtual learning and he could submit a plan for more if needed.
Sparkman High School is completely under a virtual learning program for the 2021-2022 school year.
Concerned students, faculty and parents addressed the board with one Sparkman student's father stating, "This is not the first time I've been up here fighting for our school and our kids. I feel like it's a regular occurrence, unfortunately. I'm happy to do it. I'm proud to stand up here."
The Sparkman School District was consolidated into the Harmony Grove School District on July 1, 2004.
Previous attempts to close the Sparkman campus by the Harmony Grove School District have been denied by the Arkansas Board of Education.
According to documents from the Arkansas Board of Education, "On January 16, 2020, by majority vote, the Harmony Grove Board of Directors voted to close the District's Sparkman K-12 campus at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, with five members voting in favor of closure and two voting against closure."
Because it was not a unanimous vote, state law required the state board's approval for closure of the Sparkman campus.
Due to testimony and a petition from residents of Sparkman, the Board of Education ruled then that the closure was not in the best interest of Sparkman students.
Jennifer Page, Sparkman High School guidance counselor, said on Tuesday, "I stand before you as a an advocate for kids," noting the required travel to Harmony Grove would place an undue burden on some children.
Jacob Todd, a student, spoke of his love for the community and school.
Under the move, educators at the Sparkman campus would be offered jobs at Harmony Grove, Snow said.