FAYETTEVILLE – Thousands of parents took to the streets on Thursday morning (Feb. 5) to protest what they call the “added burden” of having their children’s school district take on the task of also educating 25,000 Little Rock students.
The decision to bus all Little Rock students to schools in Northwest Arkansas came after the State Board of Education made the choice to take over the Little Rock School District.
Under the plan, students would be bussed daily from Little Rock to a selection of schools across Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale, and Siloam Springs. Parents will be required to have their children ready for bus pickup at 4 a.m. each morning so that students will arrive by the 8 a.m. start time. Students are expected to return home by 7:30 p.m. each night.
Fayetteville School District Public Information Officer Alan T. Wilbourn said, “Our district is one of the best in the state, and after reviewing their options, the Fayetteville School Board decided the school district would be ‘selfish’ to Hog all the best education resources.”
The organization protesting the decision, Stop Little Rock, is led by a mother named Sarah Silverston. She has a six-year-old son enrolled at Holcomb Elementary School and told Rock City Times that classes are big enough already.
“The teachers do good with the number of students they have. Class sizes average around 25 students, but with the added burden of Little Rock’s students, class sizes would skyrocket to 200. There is no way that will work,” she said.
Another parent, John Markson, 35, of Fayetteville said he thinks the money to support 25,000 additional students isn’t available in “any Northwest Arkansas town.” He has a 7-year-old daughter enrolled at Vandergriff Elementary School.
“Look around. We do good to take care of the students we already have. There’s no way we can shoulder the additional financial burden of 25,000 students.”
The local Greenpeace chapter in Fayetteville also participated in the protest, not because they’re against the influx of so many Little Rock students, but because multiple buses traveling up and down Interstate 40 and Interstate 49 all day would add a “significant growth to Arkansas’ already-existing carbon footprint.”