The Arkansas Charter Authorizing Panel has approved an open-enrollment charter school to be housed on the campus of the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter (NWACS). Hope Academy of Northwest Arkansas is designed to serve children who have experienced significant childhood trauma. It will be the first of its kind in Arkansas and one of the first of its kind in the United States.
“Since 1993, the Shelter has provided safety and love to children who have been abused and neglected,” said Maury Peterson, NWACS Executive Director. “In 1998, with the addition of our on-site school, we also began meeting the unique educational needs of the children in our care. What is now known as trauma-informed education is something that we have been practicing for more than 20 years.”
At Hope Academy, trauma is defined as “detrimental events that have occurred in a child’s life that significantly impact the child’s ability to cognitively and behaviorally function in a classroom setting.” Hope Academy will focus on students who have experienced abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences including the death of a parent or caregiver, exposure to substance abuse in the home, homelessness, living in a chronically chaotic environment, etc. Small classroom settings in which specially-trained teachers provide personalized, trauma-informed instruction will give these students the best chance to succeed.
“The NWACS has the facility, outdoor space, leadership and educational as well as behavior modification training to create an environment best suited for the students’ unique needs,” said Dr. Debbie Jones, Superintendent of Bentonville Public Schools. “More importantly, they are asking for this charter not in order to make money but to serve the students who need it most.”
Hope Academy will accept students from all across Northwest Arkansas who are most in need of a trauma-informed educational setting. Applications will be available in January 2020 with an application deadline of the end of February 2020. An admissions lottery will be conducted if applications received exceed the number of available slots in each classroom. Hope Academy is set to open to grades K-3 for the 2020/2021 school year. The goal of the charter is to add grades each year until it is K-6 with a capacity of 70 students by the 2023-2024 school year.
“The NWACS Board and I are very proud of the Shelter team for developing such an innovative and comprehensive plan for Hope Academy,” said Chris Lamson, Vice President, NWACS Board of Directors. “I’m pleased we received the Panel’s approval, but even more thrilled that they really shared our excitement for this groundbreaking school.”