Jonesboro School District exploring becoming a charter school

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Jonesboro School District is looking for public input about the possibility of the high school becoming a Conversion Charter School.

By becoming a Charter School JHS would be exempt from many state education rules and would have more flexibility in curriculum development although the state would have final approval.

Faculty and students and administration officials have toured other charter high schools in the state and addressed the public at a meeting tonight in the high school library.

School officials, teachers and students visited the high school in Mountain Home to see how the academy program works. Matt Norman, the President of the Junior class was one of the students that traveled. Norman says their school is a bit different than JHS.

Norman, "They classify it into 3 academies, HHS which is health and human services, ACME which is architectural construction manufacturing and engineering and then CAB which is communications, art and business."

This could be the model for JHS, putting around 350 kids into each academy grouping all having like interests.

Dr. Kim Wilbanks the Superintendent of Jonesboro schools says these academy schools can produce what students and future employers look for.

Wilbanks, "Students who can communicate, problem solve, work in groups and have a basic understanding of literacy and math and apply those in real world situations."

With the academy and charter status would come block scheduling, very similar to what is done at college. Not every subject, every day. Students would meet for periods 1,3,5 and 7 on one day then meet for 2,4,6 and 8 on day two. Another day would add a late start so from 8 to 9 that hour would be reserved for meetings, and extra instruction.

Sally Williams who teaches English and AP English says she and her colleagues are looking forward to the change.

Williams, "Longer class times, so we could actually teach a lesson, let the children practice, they could ask us questions we could do projects."

Norman, "Unfortunately not every one in our high school will be going to college and by doing the academies it will give them the experience they need to go out into the real world."

Williams, "We can do so much more at school and not just teach a lesson and send our kids home with hours of homework."

Of course spending money and building new facilities always seem to come with new ideas. Dr. Wilbanks says not for this change. She relates to the changes when they instituted the Magnet program.

Wilbanks, "It doesn't require building additional buildings, it doesn't require adding additional personnel. It's a restructure of existing personnel in our existing facilities." Wilbanks added that students would still be able to take current AP classes and participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities.

Norman says as a student with a job and numerous activities this new type of schedule would work out great for him.

Norman, "More time in all your classes to do the work that's necessary to get done. And the workload while it might be the same you have more time to finish it and that's what I need as in individual and I'm sure that's what many others need."

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