RUSSELLVILLE — City schools Superintendent Heath Grimes said the district is placing a greater-than-ever emphasis on career technical education, beginning when classes resume Aug. 8.
“This is actually something we’ve been working on for a while, strengthening our career technical program, but the students will begin reaping the benefits when they come back to school next week,” Grimes said.
He said the district’s five-year strategic plan entails building community and the career technical program with its various academies.
Along with that comes the forging of stronger relationships with businesses and industries.
“We realized that instead of training these students in the areas we thought necessary, we needed to be letting our businesses and industries drive what we need to be offering students,” he said. “They know best what’s needed for these students to go to work.”
High School Principal Jason Goodwin said changes in leadership duties in the career technical areas have set the program in a good direction.
“Every student will be college, career and life ready,” he said. “We’ve implemented 10 different academies, including pre-med in health sciences and engineering, two really huge areas now. These partnerships we’ve developed with business and industry play into our goal of determining what the community needs so we can provide that training for our students.”
The school system is also implementing its career exploration course in eighth grade this year, which Grimes said will help students with course selection beginning in ninth grade.
Also new this year is the Golden Tiger Big Brothers/Big Sisters school-based mentoring program.
Grimes said the pairing of students with adult mentors is another way the school is reaching out to work on the whole student, including the social and emotional aspects of their well being.
As for construction in the district, four new classrooms are being added at Russellville Middle School with a special education wing and science lab. The project is slated to be completed Nov. 1.
Also at the middle school this year is a new computer science discovery class.
Renovations at the stadium will also be completed this year.
Enrollment in the Russellville district is at 2,500 students now, which has decreased with the implementation of the out-of-district policy. Last year, the district began charging a $600 tuition per year for students living outside Russellville city limits.
“We were growing by more than 100 per year and we simply didn’t have the classroom space to accommodate that,” Grimes said.
An updated website at the start of school is another feature parents and students will notice, along with a new online enrollment system.
Goodwin said technology upgrades this year will be vital, including a revamped virtual school program with a new platform providing remedial math.
The area of greatest concern for parents, according to Goodwin, is the change to a modified block schedule where classes continue all year long.
“It provides extra time for homework and other perks,” Goodwin said. “We’ve looked at ACT scores and have gotten advice from advanced placement officials, and year-long classes are really best for AP and pre-AP, as far as retention goes.”
Goodwin said the district is committed to pushing the bar for students. While it’s tough on students now, “they’re graduating and coming back saying they are glad they were pushed.”