Monday, January 21, 2008

Don’t Cling to the Past: Sell Central High

Little Rock Central High School has served its students and the community for more than 80 years and, sadly, is at the end of its useful life. The 21-acre campus falls well below the state recommended minimum campus size.

Central students and teachers deserve a shiny new, modern high school. The classrooms are full, parking lots are beyond capacity, and the gym can only accommodate a fraction of the students at a time. The numerous exterior doors make it impossible to secure in such a dangerous part of town.

A high school is not a neighborhood school. It serves the entire district. While the Park Street location may appear to be more “central” than the property in west Little Rock, it is not “central” to the wealthier white student population out west in Chenal.

We have heard arguments that the loss of access to UALR by Central students would be devastating to the high school experience, but not many students actually enroll in courses at UALR. Teachers and administrators also will tell you it creates problems with high school students interacting inappropriately with UALR students.

How would we pay for a new high school in Chenal Valley? We could sell the current 21 acres to UALR for additional parking lots and have a down payment toward a new $150 million campus. If UALR doesn’t want it, we could sell it to developers for a condo project.

Our schools are our legacy, but that integration stuff is overrated history. Let’s take this opportunity to relocate the high school to an area with room to grow. Our developers need it, and our fast growing community will be better for it.

Just kidding, but those are the same arguments being made to sell off Fayetteville High School and build a new mega-facility out west of I-540.

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