A blog reader reports:
The Dewitt School board, in a special called meeting, voted to close the Humphrey Elementary school and the Gillett 6-12 grade middle school and high school effective this next school year. Gillett K-5 will remain open.
It is a sad time here in Gillett. As far as I know, the Coon Supper will still be on. Money raised to provide scholarships to graduating high school students from the Gillett area.
UPDATE: Brady Holzhauer, a freshman journalism student at UA and a Gillett High graduate, sends in a column on the subject.
By Brady Holzhauer
It doesn’t take a whole lot for anyone to fall in love with Gillett High School. It may be the 6 to 1 student to teacher ratio. It may be the Coon Supper. It could be the fact that Gillett students continually score highly on standardized tests, or maybe it’s just the simple fact that it feels like family.
But what has drawn people to Gillett High School is no more. The flame has finally burned out – although the proper wording may be “put out.” On Tuesday, April 28 the DeWitt School Board unanimously voted to close down Gillett High School. A building, a system and a unique type of education are gone – but the memories, the tradition and the love are not.
For the past several years parents and students at GHS lived under the pretense that the school could be saved if fought for. Deep down, most of us know it would not be. After being annexed by DeWitt a few years back, DeWitt started claiming Gillett was a financial burden. Locals did the investigating themselves, and the numbers prove otherwise.
However, it appears Gillett was financially advantageous to bring in, and all board members voted in favor of closing the school down and bringing its students to DeWitt. It was not a necessary decision, and the consequences of such decision-making far outweigh the benefits.
I’m sure the board went over all of the outcomes, but if DeWitt truly wants to save money, perhaps they should have though about how they now must run bus routes to all corners of the largest-area school district in the state of Arkansas.
Imagine this: students from rural Nady, Arkansas must ride a bus approximately 22 miles to DeWitt. In the opposite direction is Humphrey, a school the school district has already taken in – a 30 mile trip. On top of that, it’s already a 15-minute trip from Gillett.
But what about this – with Gillett keeping its elementary school, there are a number of parents who will have a child they need to get to Gillett elementary and a child they need to get to DeWitt Middle or High School all in one morning. The only logical choice is to take their children out of Gillett, further hurting the school’s chances to even keep the K-6 grades.
But perhaps the most important issue at hand is this: like what happened at Humphrey, DeWitt may do its best to prevent a charter school in Gillett by denying the town the high school building. It’s been threatened already, and if this is the case let it be known now that this should not stand. Let this be a notice to all involved that should the school district allow the high school buildings to rot and decay over allowing Gillett to open a charter school, it will not go unnoticed.
If that situation is to occur, I would like to ask that Governor Beebe intervene in the matter, and help save the hassle of one of Arkansas’s proudest small towns. I ask this not in light of hurt feelings or upset parents, students and teachers, but in light of a quality education and home for students in southern Arkansas County.
On the bright side, all is not lost. Now is the time to listen to a voice reason, not one’s emotions. A tradition may have ended, but I was wrong when I said the flame had burned out. Despite the loss of the school, that flame is very much still burning, and no one should be able to put it out.