Agri School Project Tabled By State Education Board

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 163 views 

A petition that would allow the former Weiner School District to detach itself from the Harrisburg School District was pulled from the agenda of the Arkansas State Board of Education because the rules creating so-called agriculture schools have not been formally set, a supporter of the project said Thursday.

Greta Greeno said state education officials asked for the drop to give time for the rules to be approved by a legislative committee in order to take effect.

The board, which met Thursday in Little Rock, was scheduled to take up a plan that would allow the former Weiner district to create the Weiner Academy of Agriculture and Technology.

The plan for agricultural schools, for students in grades K-12, was approved earlier this year by the Arkansas General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark.

Under the plan, a pilot program would be created for students in grades K-12.

Greeno said the school, which would be on the grounds of the former Weiner School District, would teach the core curriculum of English, math, science and history while also focusing on agricultural classes.

The students would be taught precision agriculture classes, Greeno said.

The area where the school would be located is in an agricultural area, where farmers grow mainly rice and soybeans.

Greeno said the area, while having its fair share of agricultural jobs, sometimes face a shortage of trained workers.

She said many businesses have to go out of state to recruit employees, with over a quarter of the state’s jobs tied in some way to agriculture.

While working on the project, Greeno said supporters have been working to build interest in the school.

In just two weeks, the school has drawn the interest so far of about 240 students and their parents, Greeno said.

The former Weiner district was annexed into the Harrisburg School District in 2010 after the Weiner district fell below a state-mandated 350-student number.

Greeno said while students were told about increased extracurricular activities that would be available due to the annexation, most students spend about 90 minutes before and after school riding school buses.

“Everyone is excited. Everyone is hopeful. Everyone wants to see their school in local control,” Greeno said. “It is not a good thing for students (under the annexation). They are losing out on extracurricular activity due to having to travel on a bus.”

Once the legislative committee approves the rules, there will be a 30-day waiting period before the rules are implemented, Greeno said.

When everything is set, Greeno said the application will be resubmitted to the state education board.

If the board approves the detachment request, a special election would be held.

Greeno said officials are hopeful that the school will be open in time for the 2016-2017 school year.