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Arkansas school district receives $1.25M grant

by John Anderson The Sentinel-Record | December 29, 2019 at 1:21 p.m.
Centerpoint students perform during a dedication and ribbon cutting at the district's new elementary school on May 11, 2017. - File photo by The Sentinel-Record

A $1.25 million grant was awarded to the Centerpoint School District last week by the Arkansas Public School Resource Center to implement the Centerpoint Academy of Agriculture and Skilled Trades, according to a news release.

"It feels great," Centerpoint High School principal Nic Mounts said of the grant awarded Dec. 20.

"I am excited about what the $1.25 million is going to do for our school and what it is going to enable us to purchase for our (agriculture) program overall and for our kids," he said.

The Centerpoint School District is located in Amity, roughly 35 miles southwest of Hot Springs.

The funding will be used for the school's vision as an agriculture charter school and will allow for the purchase of school buses, a tractor and other related materials, according to a news release.

"We have a list of $1.25 million worth of agriculture equipment. It is a pretty substantial list," Mounts said.

The tractor will be used for the school farm the charter school has on its campus. The agriculture wood shop will have new tools such as new saws, hand tools, computer numerical control machines, and 4-by-8-foot plasma cutters. The school's meat lab will have new modern, updated meat cutting equipment, he said.

The grant will also fund an entirely new stainless steel commercial, industrial kitchen, which the school has not had before. The new kitchen will allow the school's Family and Consumer Science program to merge with the agriculture program and enable both fields to work together, he said.

The students, faculty and staff and the community will benefit from the grant. The whole vision for the Agriculture Charter school is to expose the students to enough programs that they can find their passion.

"For a lot of our kids, agriculture and skilled trade are what they are passionate about," Mounts said.

The school is the first and only school in Arkansas that is an Agriculture Charter school. Three years ago, Mount and another teacher went to the Academy for Sciences & Agriculture High School in Vadnals Heights, Minn., for a tour.

"What we came away with is that we're already doing a lot more than what they are doing. The difference was that they were incorporating agriculture into every single class," Mounts said. "They were a true (agriculture) school. The (agriculture) was in the name of their school."

To most of the students at Centerpoint, it would not make sense to incorporate agriculture into the class since that is not what they want to do. There are 322 students, K-12, that attend the charter school, and 48% of those students like the idea of having agriculture in the core course, he said.

"For a big chunk of that 48% of our kids, they love agriculture. They love working in the land on their hands. They love working on our school farm. They love cutting meat," Mounts said.

The school went more in-depth and asked the students if they wanted to learn how to do agriculture through English and to learn the history of agriculture. He said 48% of the students take one agriculture class, and 57% take two or more agriculture classes.

To get the grant, the school had to do a few things, he said, including getting approval from the Arkansas Department of Education to be granted to be a charter school in August 2020. They completed a 35-page application sent to ADE and then had to go through the Charter Authorization Panel and plead their case to become a charter school. Once they got approved, they applied to the Arkansas Public School Resource Center.

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