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Hughes Arkansas Schools ordered to merge with West Memphis School District

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 HUGHES, Ark. -- Another forced school consolidation in the mid south.

This time it was the Hughes Arkansas School District

It was told it was merging with West Memphis Schools in July.

The Arkansas Board of Education made the decision because of declining enrollment numbers at Hughes Elementary and Hughes High School.

No one in the small Arkansas town wants to see their schools close or see students have to travel so far for their education.

"And if they bus these little bitty kids way somewhere else. It's just going to be tragic. I feel it will be tragic," said Irene Combs.

She was brought  to tears Friday after learning the Hughes School District will be merging with the school district in West Memphis, Arkansas.

As a Hughes City Council member Combs hoped enrollment would increase above the minimum requirement of 350 students.

"Statistically speaking, we are below the required enrollment. But I mean there's nothing we can do about that. But things were improving," she said.

The Hughes School District was placed on "fiscal distress status" in 2013 following a State audit.

WREG was told the district will merge with West Memphis Schools about thirty miles away in Crittenden County.

The merger decision outraged folks in Hughes who believe the issue of transportation will cause problems.

"Most people don't have transportation, most people walk to school. And with that happening it's going to be a struggle," said Raleon Cobb.

For others the announcement was just "one more nail in the coffin"  for an economically depressed community.

"If they close that school down, they may as well close the whole town down, basically," said Irene Finch.

Irene Finch is a cook and waitress at the St. Francis Restaurant, a small diner just a few blocks from the Hughes High School and Hughes Elementary School.

Finch said a lot of teachers, staff members and students eat at the St. Francis Restaurant, but that's likely to change very soon.

"This is a small business in a small community. And if they close the school down it's not only going to affect the school, it's going to affect the small businesses around that depends on the school," said Finch.

Kanesha Collins has a child attending Hughes Elementary School and said more public outcry might have prevented the merger.

"A lot more parents should have supported it. The community should have come out and helped support it," said Collins.

We tried several times Friday to contact the Superintendents of both the Hughes School District and the West Memphis District for a comment on the merger,  but neither returned our calls.