Southside School District to apply for charter school

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - The Southside School District plans to submit a charter school application.

If the district's application is approved, Southside would partner with UACCB to offer college classes to high school students.

Southside High School Principal Roger Ried said this partnership would allow students to take courses in a classroom or online that correspond with their college major.

"This just opens up the possibilities for them," Ried said. "They could have that IT certification, that welding certification."

Student's current teachers would not change. Principal Ried said additional, UACCB instructors would teach the additional classes.

"They're going to be teaching those specific classes that our teachers might not even be certified to teach," he said.

Depending on the classes students enroll in, they would go to UACCB or a UACCB instructor would come to them.

"We want to do what's easiest, not have any barriers for them," Ried said.

The students would then earn enough college hours to start college at the sophomore level. Seniors would also have the opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate's degree.

"And with our agreement with UACCB, the price is fantastic," Ried said. "They work with us to discount classes and some materials, like books," Ried said.

He said college would also be more of an option for students. The district currently sends about 75 percent of students to college. A UACCB administrator said becoming a charter school could mean this percentage also finishes college.

"We've learned that if we can catch a student very early on in their educational career before they get to us, we can help them be more successful," said Brian Shonk, UACCB's Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Shonk and Ried's thought is if students can graduate from college earlier, they can also start their professional careers earlier.

"Employers are demanding more now," Shonk said. "There are a lot of skills students learn in high school, but they will learn more job skills through UACCB that are important that will help them be good workers from the very beginning."

He said the college and Southside will receive grant funds to offset some instruction costs, but the institutions also plan to solicit funds from local businesses.

"The goal is to engage business because this is about putting students in the workforce, setting them up for a good career and a good life," Shonk said. "We hope that we can engage businesses and they'll provide scholarship opportunities to help students attend college credit classes."

Shonk said he is targeting companies in the health care, manufacturing, social services and education industries. He said several companies in these fields have already partnered with UACCB, so he hopes that partnership would carry over if Southside becomes a charter school.

The Southside School District will find out if its request is approved in November.

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