The White County Central School District is working to have three computer science classes for ninth-graders to choose from in order to meet a state law that requires them to be mandatory starting with the next school year.

“Next year,” high school Principal Jackye Underwood said, “we are going to offer programming and we already have all our ducks in a row for drones, and I’m hoping we will be getting this grant that will help with robotics.”

She said that the high school currently offers robotics “but it is not through the proper channels to make it where it’s considered a computer science class. So if we get this grant, our ninth-graders will have three classes to choose from, and, of course, each class will have different levels and, of course, all the other grades can choose to take those classes also.”

In March, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law legislation to requires that high school students take a computer science course before graduating.

Hutchinson had pushed for the measure as part of his legislative agenda after a task force last year recommended the requirement. The requirement would begin with the entering ninth-grade class of the 2022-23 school year.

“This bill allows Arkansas to stay at the forefront of national leadership on computer science education,” Hutchinson said after signing the legislation.

The law requires the state Education Department to make high-quality digital content aligned with state-approved computer science courses available to all public schools beginning in August 2022. It also requires a computer science teacher to be employed at each public high school beginning in the 2023-24 school year.

A 2015 measure that Hutchinson signed into law required every public high school to offer computer science.

Underwood’s update on the course requirement was among those given by the district’s principals at the October White County Central School Board meeting

Elementary Principal Yvonne Sturdivant said her school’s theme for the year is “survivor,” and her leadership team came up with fun day events, one every nine weeks. The school recently had its first one with a glow day and Monday was the 50th day of school so the school was planing to hold a ‘50s Day with “everyone decked out in their best ‘50’s attire and all learning will center around the number 50 and the 1950s.”

“We are actually going to have a Sock Hop in the hallways,” Sturdivant said.

Thursday will be Fall Fest in the evening.

Middle school Principal Sam Ferris reported that his school has 254 students.

“One of the goals for middle school is that we are trying to have a common expectation for our kids as far as when they present and just trying to teach them skills as far as public speaking and being in front of people,” Ferris. “Ms. [Lisa] Bontempo had her first cultural day and students had to get up and present about different aspects of culture.

“Ms. [Bethany] Taff took some of our seventh- and eighth-grade students to the Junior FBLA Conference and included a picture of a student there who won a program for cover design. She said our students as they went out to eat lunch were actually complimented by other schools on their behavior. Specifically, there was a student from another school who bumped into one of the servers and they spilled what they were carrying. Well, that student walked off and two of our students hopped up and went over and started helping pick up, so I was really proud. Those are small things but that makes me really proud to hear that that our students had compassion.”

Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.

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