By Mike Wallace
The Arkansas Department of Education’s Charter Authorizing Panel has voted unanimously to approve the Centerpoint School District’s application for a conversion charter school.
The school, to be called the Centerpoint Academy of Agriculture and Skilled Trades or CAAST, will open in August 2020 serving interested students in the eleventh grade. Beginning in August 2021, the school will serve students in grades 11 and 12.
“Everyone knows that we’ve always been an agri school,” Centerpoint High School principal Nic Mounts said. “This just makes it official and gives us the flexibility to serve our kids even better. We’re excited about developing this school and making it something that the entire community can be proud of.”
CAAST will serve students who are interested in pursuing careers in agriculture or a skilled trades area and prepare them for those careers by relying heavily on skilled trades workers being on campus and taking students into the field for job shadowing.
“We will begin looking for skilled trades workers—welders, electricians, plumbers—who would be willing to work on a part-time basis teaching students those specific skills,” Mounts said. “Our agri teachers do a great job, but they can’t go as in depth as someone who does this on a daily basis.”
In addition to their agriculture classes, students’ math, English, science, and social studies classes will focus on meeting the Arkansas standards through a focus on agriculture. Teachers will design their instruction so that lessons incorporate agriculture in some way. Students will have the flexibility to have an agriculture-related job or internship, and they will work toward industry-recognized certifications. During their senior year, students will work together to
complete a collaborative capstone project that focuses on solving a problem or providing a service to the overall agricultural community.
“Our core teachers and our agri teachers will work together to make this the most unique school in the state,” Mounts said. “English classes will read novels focused on some aspect of agricultural life, social studies classes will look at history through the lens of a farmer or sharecropper, and science classes will be able to use any of our agri facilities to go deeper into their standards. We’re looking at getting approval from the Arkansas Department of Education so that we can embed a math class into one of our current math classes so that students learn real-world skills.”
The charter school will complement the other programs currently offered by Centerpoint High School and give students even more options without the burden of leaving the Rosboro campus or conforming to a community college’s schedule of course offerings.
“While some schools are able to send their students to technology and career centers around the state, that’s just not feasible for us because of our location,” Mounts said. “We’re too far from National Park College or UA Cossatot for us to send students to their campuses, so we’re essentially creating our own mini career and technology center. The best part is that we get to focus on the things that our students want and need.”
Mounts noted that several students through the years have said that their favorite part of the day is the time they get to spend in the agricultural complex.
“Now,” Mounts said, “we hope they can say that their entire day is great because they are spending their entire time doing something they love to do.”