Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of stories selected by the staff of The Commercial as the Top 10 local news stories of 2011.

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of stories selected by the staff of The Commercial as the Top 10 local news stories of 2011.

Trinity Episcopal School closed its doors in late May due to declining enrollment and a lack of funds and the space was filled in August by the new Pine Bluff Lighthouse Charter School.

“The economy has a great deal to do with the drop in enrollment for private schools,” Trinity Episcopal School Principal Doug Dorris said in February. “A lot of people are struggling. Also, a lot of people are moving out of the area.”

“There is still a lot of sadness among the students and teachers,” Dorris said shortly before the school closed in May. “There is still a strong attachment to the school and any time a school has to close there is sadness.”

Dorris said in May that the placement of students for the 2011-2012 school year had mostly been resolved. He said more than 30 students would be attending Ridgway Christian School and other planned to attend public schools in the White Hall and Watson Chapel school districts.

“A lot of the students are going to schools within the county next year,” Dorris said. “Also, the teachers have been applying for jobs throughout the area, but so far we have three that have found employment.

Trinity’s last day of school was May 27.

Lighthouse Charter Schools announced in November of 2010 that it would be opening its second Arkansas campus at the Trinity location in August for the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

The charter school currently serves students in grades K-4 and plans to add one grade level every year until a full K-12 program is established.

Principal Brad Burl and Director of Instruction Mary Roaf are strong proponents of the school’s curriculum.

“Students benefit better from the spiral curriculum taught under the Saxon Math technique,” Burl said at a school enrollment fair held in February. “Lessons that are taught in August are continually referred to in September and throughout the year. So, when Benchmark testing comes along it will be fresh in the students’ minds.”

Pine Bluff native Roaf was happy to return to the town where she grew up.

“I hope to use the fact that I am a Pine Bluff native to help ease people to the idea of a charter school,” Roaf said in February. “Because a charter school is new to the area, I expect a lot of questioning from parents and the community. There is a curiosity that comes with being new to the area. We have to prove who we are as a new organization.”

Former staff writer Rachel Grant contributed to this story.