Officials excited as Mississippi Co. high school set to become charter school

Updated: Dec. 13, 2020 at 5:52 PM CST
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MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - New educational opportunities are coming for some Mississippi County students.

The Rivercrest School District announced beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, the high school will become a conversion charter school.

“We are really excited about the pathways that we’re going to be able to offer students,” Superintendent Sally Bennett said.

The Academies at Rivercrest High School, as it will be known, was approved by the Charter Authorizing Panel and the Arkansas State Board of Education.

The district was awarded $1.25 million to implement the new changes.

The charter school will expand learning opportunities for students in grades 7 through 12.

Students in grades 7 and 8 will complete a Student Success Plan which will pave the way for future learning opportunities.

As students move to the 9th grade, they will enter the new Freshman Academy to help them transition from junior high to high school.

“So that they can work on some of those essential skills that they’re going to need for high school coursework that they’ll be taking, and even prepare them for success post high school,” Bennett said.

Once in high school, there will be four academies of emphasis.

The Colt Academy will be the more traditional pathway for students with opportunities for accelerated learning.

There will also be a Virtual Academy for students to participate in more independent learning.

That academy was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to implement a virtual learning environment. Both Bennett and Assistant Superintendent Harry Alvis said this year threw them into that way of learning, earlier than expected.

“It was actually in the plan from the beginning,” Alvis said. “We just were kind of thrown into it this year.”

One of the hallmark academies will be the Ag Academy. Bennett said since the school is located in the middle of prime agricultural land, it was a best fit for students in south Mississippi County.

“The district actually owns farmland, so we’re hoping that we can capitalize on the resource that we have in our schools and in our community to really develop some different types of interests for students,” Bennett said.

The last academy will be the Tech Academy, which the district is also excited about.

“We are going to use our new EAST lab as the springboard for that,” Alvis said. “And with, you know, the new computer science things that are coming out each and every day, we see that as a fantastic opportunity.”

The plan has been in the works for a few years now.

“We brought in a group of community stakeholders and kind of talked with them about what our vision for this project was and what we’d like to do,” Bennett said.

Bennett said there was tremendous community support for the plan.

Alvis was a big part of getting the designation for the school by writing the grant and presenting it to the state authorizing agency.

“I had to go through and write a detailed description of each of the academies, what we wanted to offer the students, how the students would benefit, and really what we would need to execute this plan,” Alvis said.

The plan also included things like what they would do with their facilities to food services and how the district would financially execute the plan.

The work continues as the district continues to refine the academies.

“We’ve asked teachers to serve as part of a steering committee to really refine what each academy is going to look like and what’s going to set it apart,” Bennett said.

In the meantime, the excitement is growing for the new academies at the school.

“I do think we have a very unique situation here with the things that we can now offer students,” Alvis said.

And the goal of setting all students up for success remains.

“Whether that be, you know, post-secondary education, whether that may be military, workforce, whatever it is, we want all doors open to all students,” Alvis said.

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