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Adding EAST labs to 3 Little Rock elementary schools backed

City would help launch LR initiative by Olivia Alexander | June 26, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK -- The Little Rock School Board on Thursday approved a motion to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the city of Little Rock to add EAST Initiative programming to three elementary schools.

Darian Smith, the Little Rock School District's executive director for elementary school leadership, led a presentation on the memorandum during the board's business meeting and said the program aims to provide education through real-world experiences and community partnerships.

The city of Little Rock would provide $75,000 to start EAST Initiative programming at Mabelvale, Stephens and Washington elementary schools, while the Little Rock School District would employ educators and provide the technical and maintenance support of equipment needed for the program, Smith said.

EAST is an acronym for Environmental and Spatial Technology, an educational program that combines elements of technology education, teamwork and service learning.

Board member Norma Johnson said she was in favor of adding the program at the three schools, as her son participated in EAST. She said her only concern was that adding EAST labs might not be financially sustainable for the district. Johnson said she wouldn't want to start the programs only for them to close a few years later.

Smith said the only ongoing cost for the program would be annual educator training, less than $5,000 a year, in addition to paying the teacher salaries. He said he believes the district can sustain EAST at the three schools and added that having the program in more schools will attract parents and students back to the district.

Board member Ali Noland said she shared concerns with other board members regarding the finances of hiring EAST educators, yet she also wants to give these schools access to the resource that nine other district schools already have.

"I am very hesitant to not give them the thing that's so wonderful, that all these other schools have, especially when it's coming, a lot of it, as a gift," Noland said.

Superintendent Mike Poore said he doesn't believe the new EAST labs will be difficult to sustain because the district will treat them as a priority.

He said the program will enhance district schools and help children like Johnson's son.

"When we think about our community schools, I could see those people coming up with all sorts of solutions, right there within their community to enhance their school community and their local area," Poore said. "I think this is a real win for our district."

Print Headline: Adding EAST labs to 3 schools backed

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