Premier High Schools applying to open Fort Smith campus for ‘at risk’ students

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,467 views 

Fort Smith could have another charter high school in August, with Premier High School seeking a charter amendment from the Arkansas Board of Education to open a school for at-risk students with an enrollment cap of 300.

Officials with Lewisville, Texas-based RES made the request to the Charter Authorizing Panel of the Arkansas Department of Education on 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. RES is also seeking to open charter high schools in Jonesboro and Texarkana.

The Fort Smith campus is set to open in August with enrollment estimated at 135 students if the amendment is approved by the Board of Education. Officials with Premier said they do not yet have a location for the Fort Smith campus.

According to the request, Premier High School of Fort Smith will work with Fort Smith Northside and Southside High Schools, and The Future school of Fort Smith “to serve a marginalized population of youth that have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of high school.”

The RES application noted that between 2017 and 2020 the Fort Smith School District had 235 students leave school “due to lack of interest and to pursue a GED.”

“This data is evidence that there is a population of students in the community who are becoming disengaged with the traditional educational approach,” RES noted.

Premier High School literature notes that the school provides students with a “Personalized Learning Plan” tailored to meet the needs of each students. Some of the programs provided by Premier include nursing, electrician, computer technology, drone operations and analysis, industrial electronics and workforce leadership.

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

The past few years have seen more interest in area charter schools. The Future School of Fort Smith opened its doors Aug. 22, 2016, in downtown Fort Smith as a tuition-free, public charter high school centered on a personalized approach to learning via student-designed internships, personalized learning plans, and an advisor for each student. Through May 2020, it served students in 10th through 12th grade. It graduated its first class of seniors in May 2019. The school recently opened a new $6 million, 18,000-square-feet building. The school now has 20 classrooms, 16 of which are new and two of which were renovated with the building project.

Fayetteville-based Haas Hall Academy received unanimous approval Feb. 15 from the state Charter Authorizing Panel for a Fort Smith campus to open August 2023. Final approval for the campus that will employ 14 teachers/administrators in its first year could come in March. If approved by the Arkansas Board of Education, the school would be located on the fourth floor of the former Golden Living building now owned by the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE). The academy has locations in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale and is approved for combined enrollment of 2,000 students.