FORMER GARLAND SCHOOL: Renovated for charter school use.

The state Board of Education is almost certain to act on an emergency basis today to revoke the charter of the financially and academically reeling Covenant Keepers charter school and allow the Friendship Aspire Academy to be allowed to open a year early to take its students.

It’s unclear at the moment if Friendship would move the students to Garland school, renovated by Walton Family Foundation money. It is on 25th Street, 3.2 miles by street from the Covenant Keepers location in leased space on Geyer Springs Road at Greater Second Baptist Church (which happens to be Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s church home.)


The Little Rock School District and another Southwest Little Rock charter school are also working to see if they can help accommodate students in the aftermath of news that the school bank account was drained by former leader Valerie Tatum by a series of more than $180,000 in checks being investigated by police. Friendship has been operating the school on an interim basis and has said loss of the cash imperils continued operation. If it took over the charter, state financial support would flow to it.

How did we get here?


Covenant Keepers has NEVER not had financial and academic problems. A departmental panel recommended its closure last year. The state Board of Education gave it more time, just as it did yesterday for a Pine Bluff charter school with poor academic results.

The Garland school building was renovated for another private management operation. It pulled out of plans to operate in Little Rock at the last minute. Friendship wanted to step in with no vetting period and take over to open an elementary school in the Walton building this school year. Surprisingly, the state Board wouldn’t go along, after hearing objections from Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore.


Now it looks like the Waltons might have a tenant with income-producing students in their building this year after all, with middle school grades. If so, it would house students who supposedly needed a charter school because of lack of suitable options in Southwest Little Rock. It will not be in the neighborhood generally thought of as Southwest Little Rock.  Many of the students are Latino, a community where comfort level with institutions is important because of sometimes questionable residency status.