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SPRINGDALE -- School District officials hope to have a design in hand by next month to expand the Don Tyson School of Innovation, deputy superintendent Jared Cleveland told the School Board on Tuesday.

If all goes smoothly, the district would have full construction plans more or less ready by this summer, said Cleveland, who oversees personnel and support services.

Tyson School of Innovation

The school, at 2667 Hylton Road, will hold information meetings for incoming students and their parents in the coming weeks. The meetings will start at 6 p.m. on the following dates:

• For students entering sixth or seventh grades: Jan. 16, Jan. 24 or Feb. 1

• For students entering eighth through 12th grades: Jan. 17, Jan. 22 or Jan. 30

Source: Springdale School District

"It's a heavy lift this spring to get everything done," he said. "We're trying to push forward."

The board last May gave the green light to gradually add sixth and seventh grades to the facility and roughly double its 143,000-square-foot size. Cleveland pegged the project's budget at $35 million at least.

The school allows students to learn and master required skills at their own pace and delve into their interests with teacher guidance. It started in fall 2014 with eighth-graders, and this next school year, the school will welcome its first senior class.

The school tied into another topic in Tuesday's board meeting, the October trip officials and teachers from Springdale and other local districts took to tour schools in New Zealand. Megan Slocum, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that country's schools have tapped into students' creativity and drive to learn by giving them more independence and responsibility over their education, much as the School of Innovation does.

"We can do this in Springdale, and we should be doing it K-12," she told the board. "It was really interesting to see the things that were important to them."

Slocum and other trip participants described schools where children were basically trusted -- trusted to handle real tools at a young age for woodworking class, taught and trusted to manage their time without strict schedules, trusted to learn from failures. Springdale is dipping its toes into those concepts and not just at the Tyson school, but it should rev up those efforts, Slocum said.

The trip stemmed from a partnership between the University of Arkansas Office of Innovation for Education and the Walton Family Foundation, which kicked in $350,000 for the trip and a two-year project to take its lessons and put them into action.

Slocum's short-term goals to that end include figuring out tangible ways to incorporate trust. She added she hopes in the longer term to embed student agency and inquiry-based learning into the district's curriculum.

In other business, the board heard an update on the English Language Learners program. Around 900 students graduated from English as a Second Language programs, similar to last school year and more than double the year before. More than 9,000 students were taking part in courses to master English as of this month, roughly 40 percent of district enrollment.

Program director Mary Bridgforth said the district has partnered with Tyson Foods and Hispanic and Marshallese community groups to make the program better and help students' family members learn as well.

NW News on 01/10/2018

Print Headline: School expansion moves closer

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