Area offers variety of academic options

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Northwest Arkansas has more than just excellent public schools, as parents have the option of placing their children in a number of charter, Montessori or private schools in the area.
Charter schools differ from public schools in the sense that they have some freedom to stray from rules that public schools have to follow, but have to produce solid results in return.
Benton County has two open-enrollment charter schools — Arkansas Arts Academy and the Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy, while Washington County has Haas Hall Academy.
Arkansas Arts Academy was formerly known as Benton County School of the Arts, and recently named Mary Ley its new chief executive officer and superintendent, replacing Paul Hines. Ley is a former art teacher and was at one time the executive director of communications and community partnerships in the Bentonville School District.
The academy is the second largest charter school in the state with an emphasis on arts and academics.
Haas Hall Academy, which currently has an exclusive campus in Fayetteville, was named the top public high school in Arkansas for the third consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report.
Superintendent Martin Schoppmeyer said that there are plans to open a second campus in Bentonville for the 2015-2016 school term, preferably in the old Powerhouse Gym on SE Walton Boulevard.
Fayetteville Montessori School has long been a fixture of Montessori education in Northwest Arkansas and recently built a new elementary building that won the Associated Builders and Construction Award of Excellence.
The concept of education at Montessori stems from the belief that human being learn critical thinking skills through discovery. Children grasp abstract concepts literally by putting their hands on them.
Others have this concept in mind as well. In June, the Northwest Arkansas Times reported that Ozark Education executive director Christine Silano was making an attempt at gaining a charter school license in Springdale.
Silano wants to open a Montessori-based school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and would call it Ozark Montessori Academy.
Of course, there are private schools to choose from, most notably Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, which is affiliated with Cross Church (formerly First Baptist Church of Springdale).
The private school educates approximately 1,000 students, mainly at its campus in Springdale, but also teaches preschool through first grade in Rogers at Pinnacle Hills.
About 98 percent of Shiloh Christian’s students further their education in college, and 30-plus hours of college credit are currently offered there, while their ACT scores are above both state and national averages.
There are also other Christian-affiliated private schools in Northwest Arkansas, including Fayetteville Christian School and Life Way Christian School in Centerton.
St. Joseph Catholic School in Fayetteville, operating under the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Little Rock, offers high quality education from preschool through middle school.
More information on education in the state of Arkansas is available by calling the Arkansas Department of Education at (501) 682-4475, or by visiting arkansased.org. ■

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