Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

TOP STORY >>Returning to classes

IN SHORT: A roundup of school districts in Cabot, Beebe, Lonoke and north Pulaski County as they prepare to welcome new and returning students Monday, Aug. 21.

Leader staff writer

Area schools are preparing their classrooms to welcome students back in less than two weeks for the first day of classes Monday, Aug. 21.

Students attending Cabot’s High School and junior highs can pick up their class schedules in the cafeteria from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, and campus tours will be available for students from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18.

The tours are necessary because when the bell rings at 7:45 a.m. Aug. 21, about 1,800 students will be the first to step foot in the new $13.9 million, 191,015-square-foot Cabot High School campus designed by Steve Elliott, a Cabot graduate.

When school starts, students have six minutes to navigate the 105 classrooms, a great improvement over past years when students had to go outside in the elements to attend classes in 25 trailers and smaller buildings scattered across campus.
Administrators expect about 8,700 students throughout the district, gaining an average of 300 new students each year based on past enrollment numbers.

Students at Cabot Middle School South and Cabot Mid-dle School North have already received their schedules. There will be an open house-cookout-orientation at Mid-dle School North from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Just how many new students won’t be reported to the state until September and are expected to be similar to last year. Cabot had 8,488 students enrolled last year, a growth of 425 more than 2004.

The Beebe School District expects about 65 to 95 new students. Last year, the district had 2,915 students, an increase of 133 students over 2004.

The Lonoke School Dis-trict, where a new middle school is expected to open later this fall, last year added 37 students to its rolls, pushing enrollment figures to 1,855.

At the secondary level in the Pulaski County Special School District, Kenneth Clark, principal at Jacksonville High School, said changes there include regulating the use of vending machines until after breakfast and lunches are served and receiving news of being chosen by a local cable channel for JHS football games to be televised. Cabot, North Pulaski and Searcy high schools were vying for this opportunity to be seen on My Town TV, according to Clark.

“Coach (Jerry) Wilson was instrumental in getting the football games televised,” Clark told The Leader.

As for the vending machines, which offer not only fruit juices, water and carbonated drinks but also ice cream treats, Clarks hopes by regulating the hours in use will decrease some disciplinary measures.

“We don’t need them (students) hyped up too much,” Clark said. “We’re going to let the teachers hype them up this year.”
New at the high school located along Linda Lane in Jacksonville is a mural currently being painted by Zach Price who will be a senior this year at JHS but he is not the only one helping with the project. His family — Gary, Paula, Hannah, Phillip, Jacob and Caleb — and a former student, Courtney Cable, have assisted so far.

About 1,240 students are expected to attend JHS as the school year kicks off and as they change classes, they will get to view their school colors in an artistic form. Clark also revealed a teacher/student ratio of 28 to 1 decreasing to 25 to 1.
A less colorful but extremely functional project is getting underway to provide wheelchair accessibility to the school’s media center. A ramp will be constructed near the principal’s office. The steps up to the media center will then be history according to Clark.

“We’ll lose an office and this was a bathroom,” Clark explained as he pointed out the area where the ramp will be upon its completion.

Meanwhile, Don Henderson, a new principal at North Pulaski High School, has apparently adopted a wait-and-see attitude as the school year begins.

“Coming into a new situation, you really don’t know what to expect but I believe if it’s not broke don’t fix it.”
One of the changes has already been decided for him. There is a vacancy to oversee the Simply Delicious restaurant operated by NPHS students this year.

“We’re hoping to keep this program going but have yet to find a qualified person,” Henderson said.
Despite being new to the school, Henderson does have a plan, which includes parents and members of the community. He hopes the phrase ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ will become more than just words.

“I want to create a school where parents and the community will be involved and feel comfortable when they come here,” Henderson said.

Henderson also wants NPHS students to become hyped up about school.

“I want our students to waking up and being excited about coming to school rather than making excuses for not being here,” Henderson told The Leader.

As a new principal, Henderson is focusing upon safety and learning. NPHS is located off Harris Road near Little Rock Air Force Base. Both high schools ban the use of cell phones, which could be a possible source of distraction from learning. Finding a student in possession of a cell phones, will result in it being confiscated and the teen being suspended, according to NPHS personnel.

The two middle schools separated by gender teach students attending the sixth through the eighth grades.

Michael Nellums, principal at the Jacksonville Boys Middle School, and Kimala Forrest, principal at the Jacksonville Girls Middle School, agree there are more disciplinary needs among boys than girls at these ages. Nellums indicated it is projected that 500 boys will be attending the local middle school this year.

“Five hundred boys is the equivalent of 1,500 kids on a coed campus,” Nellums told The Leader. “But it’s just because boys are extremely active at this stage of their lives.”

Despite it being extremely active, it is considered disciplinary needs by the school district. This youthful exuberance may decline, as increased physical activities will get underway during the 2006-07 school year.

According to Nellums, the school will be getting playground and fitness equipment to meet Arkansas’ physical-health standards. “We’re going to be a physically fit school,” he said.

The Jacksonville Boys Middle School will have 60 new computers this year as well.

At the Jacksonville Girls Middle School, Forrest feels right at home because she attended the school here when the middle school was still coed. This marks the second year for the school-gender split.

This is also Forrest’s first year to be principal at the girls school, located along Main Street near downtown Jacksonville. “I’m glad to be back,” she says.

Plans underway include “girl activities” geared to promote self-esteem as well as outward appearances. “We’re going to work on the girls inside and out,” Forrest said.

Forrest plans to instill the young girls with confidence enough allowing them to obtain whatever career goal they choose in the future. “I always tell my kids there is no limit,” she says.

During this school year, sixth-grade students are required to participate in physical education, art and “general” music or band, according to Forrest. Seventh-grade students must take courses in health and computer keyboarding. In the eighth grade, students are subjected to career orientation and family work connections courses. Several of the local principals concluded ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ means not only parental but also community involvement to get the best results in building the next generation of adults in the American workplace.