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Crossley outlines HPS rally to COVID-19 response

By Ken McLemore/Hope Public Schools, 01/29/22 4:15 AM

HOPE – Hope Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Crossley compared the current state of public education in Arkansas to the Book of Job in the Bible to explain the HPS rally against COVID-19 for Hope Rotarians recently.

Dr. Crossley said the Biblical narrative of Job was not so much about Job’s life as the understanding that despite weighty disruptions to life, such as COVID-19, God the Creator remains in charge.

BUILDING EXCELLENCE

Crossley said the emphasis within the HPS after a rocky period in January is now to continue building educational excellence for the long term. He said the development of innovations such as the Hope Collegiate Academy/Career-Technical Education partnership between the HPS and the University of Arkansas – Hope, the Bobcats Work initiative, the HPS solar array project and other plans have given HPS students, teachers and administrators weapons to use against “COVID-19 fatigue.”

“The only way we are going to do it is to do it together,” Crossley said.

YERGER MUSEUM

In that light, Crossley previewed a new initiative in collaboration with the Yerger High School Alumni Association to put the Dr. Henry C. Yerger Museum on the Yerger Middle School campus into ongoing operation.

“We have a really good plan in place to help the Yerger Alumni Association open the museum,” Crossley said.

Plans have been laid to incorporate YMS student-lead service projects at the museum to prepare exhibits and the building for an anticipated re-opening by March, he said.

The collaboration is intended to provide hands-on help for the YAA that will create “service learning” credit for Yerger students.

Crossley said the Yerger Alumni Association will make a formal announcement of its plans for a re-opening celebration and ongoing operations.

BOBCATS WORK

Creating opportunities for HPS students is at the heart of the innovations the district is pursuing despite difficulties with COIVD-19, Crossley said. The Bobcats Work initiative through the Hempstead County Economic Development Corp. is an example where 50 Hope High School junior and senior students will be matched with job opportunities in the local community.

The program allows students to work at paid or non-paid “service credit” positions with a view toward full-time employment after high school or the completion of the HPS-UAH CTE program through HHS.

“We had about half the students wanting paying jobs,” Crossley said. “Our students are excited about it and our business community is excited about it.”

A kick-off luncheon in December is expected to be followed-up with another meeting in February to create specific student-business pairings. Community partners already committed include the City of Hope, Pafford Emergency Medical Services, UAH, and the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce.

SOLAR ENERGY

The HPS is also ready to literally flip the switch on a solar energy power supply project which is anticipated to save the district as much as $60,000 per year in energy costs, Crossley said.

The project is intended to reduce the district’s reliance upon commercially-generated electrical power as part of a mix of services and infrastructure improvements that are designed to cut district costs over time.

“Obviously, we won’t get the full benefit the first year,” he said.

The HPS Board of Education is expected to tour the facility located on Lakeshore Drive directly across from Clinton Primary School on Feb. 22 with a view toward formal acceptance of the project at its regular meeting that night, Crossley said.

FIGHTING COVID-19

Everything Crossley touched upon has been developed in the middle of a global pandemic, highlighting the “positives” that can be achieved despite COVID-19, he said.

“We have had to pivot and that takes away some Alternative Method of Instruction days,” Crossley said. “But, we are looking at innovative ways students can be in school and keep the doors open.”

The Clinton Primary School and Hope Academy of Public Service campuses will forego “early out” days for the remainder of the year to account for AMI days taken in the most recent pivot, Crossley said.

He said Hempstead County has been in the middle of a “hot zone” for COVID-19 cases since the start of school, in part because of the need for Hempstead County to catch up its vaccinated immunization rate.

“We’re not in a position to point fingers; we are responding to keep the doors open,” Crossley said.

The HPS has offered numerous vaccination clinics for students and staff through the Bobcat Clinic on the HHS campus and in collaboration with ExpressRx pharmacy in Hope.

Teaching and learning are the point, Crossley said.

“Everything we do is about teaching and learning,” he added. “COVID-19 shifts mean that we do have students that are falling behind; so, we’re not going to hide our head in the sand.”

Crossley said HPS ACT Aspire scores have kept pace with the region, noting that the Beryl Henry Elementary School and Yerger Middle School campuses have been recognized as schools “Beating the Odds” on academic growth, according to the Office for Educational Policy of the University of Arkansas. The Hope Academy of Public Service was recognized as well as one of the top five middle schools in southwest Arkansas.

Hope Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Crossley, right, was hosted as the guest speaker Thursday at the Hope Rotary Club by Rotarian Clay Lance. Dr. Crossley gave the group an overview of the progress of Hope Public Schools initiatives as the HPS responds to a second school year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. – Ken McLemore/Hope Public Schools