Gov. Hutchinson Tours Jonesboro High School, Promotes Coding Education

Jan 25, 2016

Anita Bellew said Monday that there has been a tradition at Nettleton High School for many years of students learning about the real world that awaits them.

About 30 students had the opportunity to hear from Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) about his plans for computer coding and workforce development. Hutchinson was in Jonesboro to discuss the computer coding program, which began earlier this school year. About 4,000 students in the state have already enrolled in the program, with $5 million set aside to retrain teachers for the program.

Bellew, who is a teacher at Nettleton (near Jonesboro), said the district teaches Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics classes as well as Engineering and Spatial Technologies, or EAST Lab, to students and has for many years. The EAST Lab teaches students to work with 3-D printers, while another work-based program at the high school helps students learn job skills before graduating, school officials said.

The program allows students to use their first period class to learn about the essentials of working, while the students can use sixth and seventh periods to work at a job. Nettleton Superintendent James Dunivan said the district has invested in infrastructure at the schools to help students with their future.

“He (Gov. Hutchinson) is speaking their language,” Dunivan said. “In the last five years, we have spent a lot on infrastructure.”

One of the programs through EAST Lab is “Touch a Truck.” The program allowed students to contact a series of groups, including race car drivers, to bring vehicles to campus and other places in Jonesboro. For a fee, people could sit in the vehicles with the money raised going to two area charities – Hope Circle and the Miracle League. Bellew said the project helped students to learn mapping and graphic design, while having fun.

Sen. John Cooper, R-Jonesboro, who also attended the event, said the programs have a positive response from students.

“The youngsters definitely love technology,” Cooper said. “It is something they enjoy, plus it helps them to build their future.”

Hutchinson said the computer coding initiative has gained support in recent months, with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio pushing his own plan.

“He said he wants to make it mandatory in 10 years,” Hutchinson said of the New York City plan. “So, what they say they want done in 10 years, Arkansas has done in 10 months. Talk about the economies of scale.”

Dunivan said the way education is delivered has changed as well.

“Education has flipped. It used to be that they walked in our world,” Dunivan said. “Today, we now walk in their world.”