Future School of Fort Smith welcomed its second class of students on Wednesday (Aug. 16) by unveiling the new “Rockets” mascot – logo still to come – and commemorating the event with student-designed rocket launches and “Space-X” group pitch sessions during the afternoon.
The 10th and now 11th grade classes at Future School broke off into groups to design bottle rockets made of empty plastic two-liter soda bottles and other construction materials. Math teacher Nathaniel Wray and athletic director Eric West then shot off the rockets from a field just outside the campus’s modular buildings.
Prior to launch, Future School Superintendent Trish Flanagan had the class gather onto the wooden bridge connecting the main building to the modulars for the first ever class photo.
“This is history,” Flanagan said as she corralled a student body that had nearly tripled in size from its initial enrollment of 58 for the 2016-2017 school year.
On Wednesday, Flanagan said there were “at least 150” 10th and 11th graders in attendance.
“There was no road map for us to start,” Flanagan told Talk Business & Politics. “We just had to start with our best research and experience and assumptions about what we needed to do to get off the ground. But I think that, with the community support, and the diverse experience of all our different staff members, it helped us build a solid foundation. The growth is a testimony to the good track record we’re building.”
Flanagan also credited returning students for their attitude of ownership and helping to mentor the new students.
“The first-year students have a sense of pride. This is their school. They were the initial kids who came in and helped maneuver through the ups and the downs that first year. So I think they feel a sense of ownership, and that’s what we’re really trying to cultivate with them.”
Flanagan said she was pleased to see “some of our students who have come in and struggled with being responsible with their own actions now working in teams, taking initiative, going and getting advice from another teacher on campus, and not having to be told what to do.”
That’s what the school was hoping for in its mission to be a “student-centered” learning environment, Flanagan added – “that students are the catalyst behind their interests and their learning.”
Guiding the students of Future School along are a staff of teachers and workers that have doubled since last year. There are seven full-time teachers and the school recently added athletic director Eric West. West told Talk Business & Politics the school would roll out a basketball team in the 2017-2018 school year, but won’t enter conference play until next year. The Future School Rockets, West said, would compete in the 1A-West.
“We’ll start playing teams like County Line this year, but it won’t count until next season,” West said, adding the first year would be about learning the basics and getting used to competition.
While Future School will just be getting acquainted with organized athletics this season, it continues to grow its reach into the community with dozens of participating businesses and organizations opening internships to students and even bringing the community into the school.
One example of the latter on Wednesday was Donald McPherson, a veteran of the U.S. Navy who worked for Ball Bros. Research as a project manager of space instrument design as well as in engineering positions with Sundstrand Aerospace and United Technologies. McPherson, 94, served as a consultant to students on how to build their rockets.
“I love kids. I like being with them. I thought it was a lot of fun,” McPherson said of the experience.