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NSB hears rezoning plans

By Staff, 07/23/21 10:36 AM

ROSSTON – July’s meeting of the Nevada School Board was unusual as there was a large audience on hand for the discussion of rezoning the districts.

Shelby Johnson, director of the Arkansas Geographic Information Systems (GIS), explained the situation to the board and audience. The district had to be redistricted because it has been gerrymandered back in 1985 to make sure there was at least one minority majority district and to help make sure all five districts making up the new Nevada district remained mostly intact.

However, a bill passed by Arkansas Legislature and signed into law by the governor, now requires all zones to be contiguous. Johnson said this should have been done with the 2010 census, but the state gave the district leeway. Now, he told the board, zoning is guided by state statute where redistricting is concerned. The GIS will redraw the map and once it’s approved by the local board, it will have to also be approved by the county election commission. Once the information from the 2020 census is available, which should be in a few weeks Johnson said, the new data can be incorporated into the map selected to see if it will work and all the districts will have roughly the same population.

The Nevada district, he said, is one of the state’s pilot programs, along with two or three other districts. The GIS, he continued, will, at no cost to the district, fill and record the required reports with the appropriate offices, the county clerk, Secretary of State and Arkansas Department of Education. He pointed out the county lost population from the last census, but nothing dramatic.

The biggest problem with the existing map is Zone 1, which includes portions of zones two and three, meaning the zoning is out of balance. Because of this, he said, all zones need to be changed. Three scenarios were presented for the board to pick from. Each would make all five zones roughly equal and contiguous, along with being more compact and making sure no current members have to run against one another. Zone 1 is the majority minority district and will remain so.

Johnson said the sooner the board picks a new map, the better it will be for the GIS as it will allow more time for changes, should they be necessary, when the 2020 census information is available. He added the new maps are on a digital format and can be emailed to board members.

In other business, the board accepted bids for groceries and school supplies, with Tankersley and Cisco being awarded bids on the products they were the low bidders on, and to Highland Dairy for milk and juice.

It also approved applying for a $250,000 loan through Farmer’s Bank and Trust with a sunset clause of Dec. 31, 2021, and paying $2538.69 for a litigation policy for the district for the remainder of the policy year, and a new policy starting in February 2022.

Tonda Pennington, elementary principal, said the district is getting ready for teacher in-service, which will be Aug. 2-11, with more than 200 students expected to be enrolled. In discussing kindergarten, she said several haven’t registered yet, but should by Aug. 10, which is the date for the district’s Open House.

Roy McCoy, in his first meeting as superintendent, said the district was well represented at the model school conference in Nashville. He told the board he attended the new superintendent’s training in Little Rock, getting some good information.

The new girls volleyball team has started practicing and has garnered a lot of participation from students. The standards will be installed on July 28, with the painting to be done by the end of August. However, he said, this may require the team to play some of its early home games away, swapping with their opponents.

In a statewide superintendent meeting via Zoom, he said, the COVID situation was discussed. While masks can’t be mandated, their use can be encouraged. All districts are waiting on new guidelines, but any days missed due to quarantine will be counted as one of the 10 AMI days districts have for inclement weather. Should a district exceed its 10 days, either because of COVID or the weather, the ADE will work with them. To help alleviate things, a COVID vaccination clinic will be held after school when it starts on Aug. 16.

He reminded the board it’s election time and those running need to get their petitions Monday and have them returned by Aug. 2.