Consolidation deadline today

Siloam Springs, Ark (April 1, 2004) — (Little Rock-AP) -- Arkansas school districts with fewer than 350 students have until the close of business today to find willing consolidation partners. For schools that can't work out an agreement with another district, it may be weeks before education officials announce a pairing. The state will also be considering the petitions from districts that are merging voluntarily. Six of the 57 districts subject to mergers still have not found partners - Carthage, Delaplaine, Holly Grove, Huttig, Lake View and Sparkman. The mergers are being forced by a new law requiring administrative consolidation of districts with fewer than 350 students. The law is part of a state plan to improve public education. The involuntary pairings likely will be put off until the state board conducts as many as 51 hearings on petitions for voluntary consolidation.