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Opinion Article by Brittany Owens

Submitted by Lauren Humphrey on September 8, 2016 – 3:18 pmNo Comment

Instead of the usual “How was your summer?” conversations students have at the beginning of the school year, UALR students have been asking each other about the high school currently under construction on our campus.
Last August, it was announced that UALR agreed to allow eSTEM Public Charter Schools to build their new high school site college campus. The K-12 charter program purchased two lots on 28th Street and leased Larson Hall, located on the southwest side of campus for the new high school. The reports published since the announcement give all the pro’s associated with the partnership. They explain the benefits for the high school students and institutions; however, they make little mention of how the new school will affect current UALR students.
eSTEM plans to enroll 725 students into the new high school set to open July 2017. That means there will be 725 extra bodies on campus next fall along with the incoming freshman and transfer students we get every year. During their class time, they will not be much of a problem to college students, however, when they have lunch breaks or when they are waiting for their parents to pick them up, they could interfere with other students trying to get to class on time. For instance, teenagers don’t usually pay much attention to anything but their phones, so there is a strong possibility that the high school students would be in the way simply because they are not paying attention. None of the explanations given so far have mentioned how the two learning institutions plan to blend the students peacefully, or if they plan to do so at all.
The explanations also fail to explain how lunch for the high school students will be handled. Around noon every weekday, the food court in the Donaghey Student Center is filled with an enormous number of students and the lines at Quiznos and Taco Bell are extremely long. With 725 extra bodies on campus, those lines will be even more ridiculous unless the high school students have a designated area to eat lunch that is separate from the DSC. It would not be fair to keep the high school and the college separate but truthfully, there are not enough options for lunch on campus. The Diamond Café is open for two hours a piece at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the Subconnection in the EIT building is open at the same times as the food court but it is not located as conveniently as the food court, and the Trojan Grill is not open all day. Unless more places to eat are opened on campus or the existing dining options change their hours of operation, the lunch time rush will become more hectic than it already is.
In a three paged document that eSTEM dedicated to frequently asked questions about their partnership with UALR, the charter school explained that they will work with the city of Little Rock to minimize excess traffic on the streets but they have yet to explain how they will. Drop off and pick up are the most congested times of the day near schools. This would mean more traffic on University Avenue, Fair Park Boulevard, Asher Avenue and 28th Street, some of Little Rock’s more frequently used streets, and on the campus. The building eSTEM will put near 28th Street will likely cause less of a problem but Larson Hall is located where most UALR students cross to get to campus or drive to find parking if they prefer not to park at the University Plaza parking lot.
Having a high school on campus may discourage high school seniors from other areas, transfer students, and graduate students from applying to or attending this university. Potential students may feel they will be annoyed by high school students. They may be turned off by the increased number of students on campus. Incoming freshmen from other schools may feel like they are in competition with students who come from eSTEM. They may also feel like attending a university that shares its campus with a high school may not be a step forward since they won’t feel the excitement of getting away from high school.
The partnership between eSTEM Public Charter Schools and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is a great idea for the institutions and the high school students. However, it does not seem well thought out because there are students who pay money to go here and it seems they weren’t considered.

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