CAMDEN – Harmony Grove School Board has voted 5-2 to move 40 students from Sparkman High School in grades 7-12 to Harmony Grove High School.
At a special board meeting on Tuesday, Harmony Grove School District Superintendent Al Snow said low student numbers make continued use of the Sparkman High School campus unsustainable. .
“Right now, there are 108 K-12 students at 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 like this it will be 94 students – 54 students in first through sixth and 40 in high school This is not sustainable “, did he declare.
Snow said no kindergartners have yet signed up for 2023.
Snow noted that since Arkansas is a school choice state, students would have the option of going to other area schools such as Fordyce, Bearden, or Arkadelphia.
He said the emergency meeting was called so that those students, if they so choose, can meet the May 1 school choice application deadline.
Harmony Grove High School Principal Jeff Mock noted that there are also 15 places open for virtual learning and that he could submit a plan for more if needed.
Sparkman High School is fully under a virtual learning program for the 2021-2022 school year.
Concerned students, teachers and parents have addressed the board, with the father of a Sparkman student saying: “This is not the first time I have fought here for our school and our children. I feel like it’s a regular occurrence, unfortunately. I’m happy to do it. I’m proud to stand 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 were rejected by the Arkansas School Board.
According to Arkansas Board of Education documents, “On January 16, 2020, by majority vote, the Harmony Grove Board of Trustees voted to close the district’s Sparkman K-12 campus at the end of the year. 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 state board approval for closing the Sparkman campus.
Due to testimonials and a petition from Sparkman residents, the school board then ruled that the closure was not in the best interests of Sparkman students.
Jennifer Page, guidance counselor at Sparkman High School, said Tuesday, “I stand before you as an advocate for children,” noting that the necessary trip to Harmony Grove would place an undue burden on some children.
Jacob Todd, a student, spoke about his love for the community and the school.
As part of the move, educators at the Sparkman campus would be offered jobs at Harmony Grove, Snow said.