Ozark Mountain School District considering campus integration

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:23 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2022 at 2:16 PM CDT
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PYATT, Ark. (KY3) - The Ozark Mountain School District is considering a significant change at its three secondary school campuses.

The Ozark Mountain School District was formed in 2004 after the former Bruno-Pyatt, St. Joe, and Western Grove school districts were forced by law to consolidate. Districts in Arkansas with less than 350 enrollment combine under unified district management and extra-curricular activities.

Ozark Mountain Schools is considering a consolidation of all three campuses to one central location in Western Grove, initially with secondary grade levels. District administration says it hopes to relocate all grades and build a new K-12 building in the future.

Pete Belanger has been a longtime resident of St. Joe and says a school is the heart of a small town.

“I just feel like when a community loses their school, they lose a lot, they really do,” said Pete Belanger, a St. Joe resident who has had several grandchildren attend the school district. “It just takes something away from the community.”

Ozark Mountain is in the early stages, and while several steps would have to happen for the school in St. Joe to be closed, options are being explored, and we will gather feedback from the community.

“Well, I think it’s going to be rough on a lot of people. That’s a long way from here anyway, from Pyatt,” said Warren Tuft, who lives in Pyatt. “If you have to travel all that way after school to play basketball or do some other activity, that’s not possible for a lot of families.”

Consolidation would mean approximately a 12-mile further drive for St. Joe and Bruno Pyatt students.

“I don’t think that is so much of a problem getting to school, but when you have parents that are up in age, it is hard to go to a basketball game. I don’t mind driving (to St. Joe) after dark, but I don’t want to go to Western Grove after dark.”

Ozark Mountain School District administration declined an interview ahead of the informative meeting Tuesday evening, providing the following statement:

“We are considering this to protect the financial interests of the district in the future, and we would like to build a new K-12 building in the future. To do that, we feel like we need to take some steps now to help secure funding from the state that would help with this. Ultimately this comes down to giving our students more opportunities and a chance for a better overall education.”

- Ozark Mountain School District superintendent, Mr. Jeff Lewis

The district is holding a public meeting at the Bruno-Pyatt campus on October 4 at 6 p.m. District administration says additional meetings will be held in the other two communities at dates to be determined.

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