Jonesboro charter school plan withdrawn, director still pushing for August opening

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 752 views 

Responsive Education Solutions (RES) is seeking approval from the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to locate charter schools in Jonesboro and Texarkana. However, the Jonesboro request was pulled by RES with the company’s state director still hoping for an August opening.

If approved by the state, each Premier High School campus would open in August 2022 with 75 students. Each campus would employ 8-10 educators/staffers.

Officials with Lewisville, Texas-based RES made the request Jan. 11 as part of an amended charter request to merge the education company’s Premier High School charters in Little Rock and Fort Smith. The Fort Smith campus is set to open in August with enrollment estimated at 135 students. The charter expansion for Texarkana could be considered by the Arkansas Board of Education at its regular March meeting.

Dennis Felton, Arkansas director for Premier High Schools, told Talk Business & Politics the Jonesboro application was pulled at the Feb. 15 meeting of the state’s Charter Authorizing Panel to continue “discussions with local stakeholders.” He stressed that he is hopeful the Jonesboro campus will open in August.

According to RES, the company received a $2.8 million Charter Schools Program federal grant “to serve communities with opportunity zones in the state of Arkansas and Texas.” The grant would fund start-up costs in Jonesboro and Texarkana. If approved, enrollment at each campus in Jonesboro and Texarkana would be capped at 85 students. RES has leased space 6,000 square feet of space at 1904 Grant Ave. in Jonesboro for the planned school.

RES targets at-risk students with a focus on skills training, with each campus working with local school districts to provide alternatives to “high school dropouts.”

“The satellite campus (in Jonesboro and Texarkana) will serve those students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of the local high school or educational programming. The satellite campuses will mirror brick-and-mortar Premier High School consisting of highly-qualified and competent staff members, emergent technology and adequate instructional supplies and resources,” the company noted in its request with the ADE Charter Authorizing Panel.

In Jonesboro, RES said it plans to offer “Industry Based Certification Programs” in partnership with Arkansas State University and other institutions, including Riceland, St. Bernards Medical Center, Nestle Foods and Walmart Inc. Programs offered include certified nursing assistant, electrician, computer science-networking, welding, culinary arts, and robotics/automation technology.

RES, founded in 1998 with 15 Premier High School locations in Texas, now has 42 locations in Texas and Arkansas.

“Over more than 20 years, we have equipped thousands of Premier graduates with an education that opens opportunities after high school, whether that involves a path to higher education or exposure to a meaningful career,” the company notes on its website.