The Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education approved a resolution at its regular board meeting Monday (Oct. 25) that will establish five single-membered and two at-large zones for school board representatives based on the 2020 census data.
The approval creates a new zone map. Each zone would divide the approximate 91,000 residents in the FSPS district into five zones of approximately 18,200. The map, which was developed with the help of Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD) using data from the U.s. Census Bureau, will have to be approved by the Sebastian County Board of Election Commissioners. If the election commission approves the map, it will come back to the school board for final approval.
Upon that approval, the school board will have to call for elections to be held in the spring at the 2022 school elections for representatives in all five single-member zones as well as for the two at-large zones, the resolution states. This would mean representatives for all seven seats will be elected in May, though not all will be for the same term length.
Board Member Talica Richardson questioned where zones two, three and four join together, which appears to be an odd trapezoid-shaped addition to Zone Three.
“Was the process of gerrymandering explained to the organization (WAPDD) as far as how we want to respect not doing things that may look odd,” Richardson said.
Tina Thompson with WAPDD answered that while zones should try to keep neighborhoods together and to not have strange zones, the zones also had to be created along census blocks that can not be split. Keeping the blocks intact while not creating holes and equally splitting the population, led to the odd shape that can be seen in the zone, Thompson said.
“Based on what you are presenting today, do you feel confident that we don’t have … any funny business going on, but you respected the census blocks, you respected the population … and you cut these lines as best you could?” Richardson asked.
Thompson said they did.
Link here for a PDF map of the proposed school board districts.