JHS officials explain what's next to become conversion charter school

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Taking Jonesboro High School to the next level has been in the works for almost two years now.
"We've implemented a modified block scheduling here at JHS and it's going extremely well. The kids seem to like it. The staff has nothing but positive feedback on it," JHS Principal, Dr. Mike Skelton told Region 8 News.
That implementation has put JHS on track for their next big move, turning JHS into a conversion charter school. Thursday night, school officials met with parents to break down what they're looking to do and why.
Bobby Long was one of those parents at the meeting. He said as a concerned parent, you have to be involved in this.
"You've got to know where your school is going, you've gotta know what's being taught, how they're going to teach it so that you can make wise choices in your kid's education."
Long has twins who will be attending JHS over the next three years. He said after Thursday night's meeting, he's looking forward to the future of the school. In the 2013-2014 school year, JHS will become a conversion charter school. Students can choose to go into one of three academies, business and communications, health and human services or STEM, science, technology, engineering and math. The arts will be available for students in any academy to take.
JHS Principal, Dr. Mike Skelton said this will do more than prepare students for real world situations.
"Kids are being exposed to those types of occupations while they're still in high school so they know when they get into college, "hey this is what I want to do" or "maybe I should pursue something different," Dr. Skelton said.
However, Dr. Skelton said the Arkansas Department of Education will have to allow for changes in their codes to make this work.
"We just feel that some of those rules and regulations out there could prevent us or hinder us from being as successful as implementing our career academy model as we could be," he told Region 8 News.
As of now, the school has applied for six waivers to the ADE. These waivers will allow for more flexibility for what the school has in mind for the conversion charter school status.
The first waiver is for half of an Oral Communications credit. Where the oral communications curriculum will be "weaved seamlessly throughout the entire academy model." Students will make presentations in each classroom throughout their three-year tenure at JHS. 
The second waiver will provide a "late arrival day." This will allow students to have one late start day each week. The hour will then be dedicated to remediation, tutoring or enrichment for students. Officials also discussed students coming in at 7am on some days for classes if need be.
The third waiver will expand the teacher class load. As currently, teacher class load for secondary classes is a maximum of 150 students a day. They hope to make that maximum larger as it will be difficult to attain that for eventual concurrently taught classes and double-blocked courses.
The fourth waiver is called the Carnegie Unit/Unit of Credits. This will allow for courses to be taught concurrently and allow for credits to be offered for each part of the course.
A fifth waiver will be for licensure of teachers. This will bring in career professionals and outside professionals to the classroom to supplement a class. Dr. Skelton said this will also allow them to keep their current teachers while accommodating the full academy model. Nurses, IT technicians and field level professionals will make up some of the people who will supplement teachers during class.
The final waiver will aide students taking science core classes. As right now, some of the higher level science classes provided at JHS don't count as a third level course. Officials would like for Principles of Engineering and Earth/Space Science to be included as an option for a third level science course.
The seventh request that JHS has from ADE will either be considered a waiver or an addition. This will allow for community based internships for juniors and seniors.
Dr. Skelton said these waivers are all requests that have been made by other schools across the state. ADE has 270 codes for public schools and JHS is hoping to change 6 of those for their conversion charter school.
Dr. Skelton said all of this will hopefully help a student decide before graduation on the best career path for them. It's something Long says he likes.
"The current education system is not working, and something's gotta be done and I'm all for this. I was sort of skeptical when I got here but when I heard their heart and heard what they were saying I felt a lot better about it," Long told Region 8 News.
Students will also be able to change academies if they choose. This spring, high school and junior high students will take a transition course to best determine which academy is right for them. After the conversion charter school is implemented, students will take a "Keystone" class in 9th grade that will help lead them to the right academy for them.
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