Southside announces charter status for junior high, $1.25 million in grant funding

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At an assembly today at Southside Schools, Superintendent Roger Rich announced the school has received $1.25 million dollars in grant funding.

As a district conversion charter, Southside Junior High became eligible to apply for funding when charter status was awarded by the Arkansas State Board of Education in November.

School officials began the process in early summer and have worked with groups of teachers, board members, business partners, and community members to develop an education plan focused on the needs of the whole child, the district said in a release.

“As the school made significant strides with Future Story Success at high school with a charter model, we wanted to extend these opportunities to students in grades seventh through eighth,” Rich said in the release. “Building on the success at Southside High School, the vision was developed to create a junior high that allowed students to discover a Future Story that valued the quality of life offered within Independence County.”

A model of efficient, innovative rural education was created to connect students to Future Story possibilities. School leaders divided the model into four areas that would focus on academic success, healthy living/well being, community engagement, and connecting students to Future Story possibilities. The model includes flexible ways for the school to implement four core components that wrap around the whole child and involve families and the community. Components were drafted to address the physical, mental, and social well being of students. This plan was awarded the grant funding of $1.25 million by the Arkansas Public Schools Resource Center.

Southside Junior High Principal George Sitkowski explains the grant “is an exciting opportunity for Southside Junior High to provide our students with new experiences. The $1.25 million opens up new avenues of education that would otherwise be impossible. We will be able to bring new technology into the classroom, add flexible scheduling, and continue to improve services for the whole child.”

Academic instruction will allow early high school courses, individualized course planning, and additional course offerings for junior high students. Enhanced physical education courses will be designed that include outdoor experiences and personalized fitness challenges to connect students to lifelong healthy living in our community.

In the coming weeks, school officials and teams of teachers will be working in collaboration with Apple’s Education Technology Department, White River Health System, ARcare, and UACCB to finalize implementation plans. The junior high charter model will begin year 1 of implementation in August of 2020.

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