A private consultant has reported on ways to alleviate problems caused by the arrival of the eStem charter high school on the UA-Little Rock campus. The report says neither institution has realized benefits expected from the partnership to date.
.eStem, a privately operated school that uses public tax money combined with support from such sources as the Walton Family Foundation, opened a new high school on the UA-Little Rock campus in the fall of 2017 and problems soon became evident — traffic, unhappiness from college students and faculty about noisy high school students in the library and public spaces, a strain on facilities particularly dining, and parking. The Faculty Senate was unhappy that it wasn’t consulted about the understanding that led to the school on campus in the first place. Steps have been taken to alleviate some of the problems this year, but the consultant’s report
In January, the faculty voted for a resolution calling for a renegotiation of the agreement to include a limit on enrollment and reconsider some use of existing college buildings by the high school. Administrators from both institutions continued to work on issues and they agreed to bring in Boyette Strategic Advisers to come up with a “feasibility enhancement study.”
The result is here and it’s interesting reading, both as to the road by which the school came to be on campus, the problems and tension that has caused and in recommendations for the future.
There’s agreement that key potential benefits to each institution have not been realized —
Opportunity to earn college credit was listed as the greatest advantage to being on a college campus by 62 percent of parents. Only 18 percent strongly agreed with the proposition that it would make a student more like to attend UA-Little Rock (and there’s some belief that the presence of the high school discourages others from attending the college.)
Among the continuing issues are facilities. eStem created a third lunch period to divide traffic, which has helped some, but
Because college attendance is staggered throughout the day and evening, the effect of 500 high school students on a daytime attendance of older students of about 2,500 is magnified, the report says. This has an impact on “campus culture” that will only increase as eStem enrollment increases.
The report said more analysis would be necessary to determine if recent college enrollment declines were related to the presence of eStem, but it said there’s no doubt the partnership had produced unseen costs for UA-Little Rock in security, dining
The report was blunt about an enrollment benefit from the high school.
Boyette outlined four potential “scenarios” for the situation. First would be status quo, with continued effort to mitigate points of friction. Second would be constructing a new campus cafeteria and commons area, designation of a portion of open space for high school students and
The report said more dining space is critical given expected high school enrollment growth. It also said more classroom space is critical so that the high school senior class can be segregated from college students. The report also outlines ways the institutions might better collaborate, particularly on academics but also in campus events, athletics and community service.
In the end, the report said, both sides must perceive benefits to have a good partnership. It encourages the institutions to look for benefits beyond financial and enrollment to things that benefit the broader community. But it said UA-Little Rock enrollment must remain a high priority and there should be an understanding with eStem that includes “realistic goals” for enrollment and financial incentives to encourage them.
This report will be a starting place for much more discussion.
I happen to believe an important element will be whether the financial angel behind