Thursday afternoon, the Arkansas State Board of Education approved a waiver for the Blytheville Public School District, which will allow the district to participate in "school choice" beginning the 2016-2017 school year.
The board praised the district for removing the obstacles that stood in the way of allowing school choice in Blytheville, according to school leaders.
"We are really excited with the education options for our children. We have removed more obstacles to student learning and now we can focus more on the children," Blytheville Superintendent Richard Atwill told the CN Thursday afternoon.
In December, Atwill requested a waiver to the Arkansas Department of Education that would allow the Blytheville School District to participate in school choice.
In a letter dated Dec. 15, Atwill asked the agency to "accept this letter as a formal request to the Arkansas Board of Education for a waiver of the prohibitions set forth in 6-18-317 (a), pursuant to the waiver provisions set forth at 6-18-318. We are asking that our request be submitted as soon as possible, which I understand will be the January 2016 meeting."
"It is my understanding from reading your letter and our conversations that, if the waiver is granted, there will be no genuine legal conflict, in the eyes of the Arkansas Department of Education, which would prohibit Blytheville School District from participating in school choice under the 2015 School Choice Act. Therefore, Blytheville would be authorized and required to participate in school choice under the 2015 School Choice Act, to the same extent as school districts which have never been under any type of desegregation-related court order."
The letter Atwill referenced was a Dec. 14 letter from Kendra Clay, general counsel for the Arkansas Department of Education.
It says, in part, "it appears that the Blytheville School District is no longer under active desegregation orders or under the supervision of the court in Franklin v. Blytheville School District."
"Based on this determination, the Blytheville School District has met its obligations required by Section 6.03 of the Standards of Accreditation and is released from further reports required by COM-16-019."
The letter further asks the district, if it intends to apply for a waiver, to do so no later than Dec. 30, and the district did.