New school year brings additions to local academic landscape

The start of a new school year was complemented in Pine Bluff by the opening of the new Quest Middle School, an open-enrollment public charter school, at 308 S. Blake St. and the expansion of Ridgway Christian School onto the campus of the former St. Joseph Catholic School on West 73rd Avenue.

Responsive Education Solutions, the Quest parent organization, received approval from the Arkansas Department of Education in 2012 to open a Pine Bluff campus serving students in the fifth through eighth grades.

Quest campus director Kasey Porchia said the school has an enrollment of 96 students and is the only Quest Middle School in Arkansas.

“Our goal was right around 100 students to start off and we are at that level,” Porchia said. “We offer our students a more hands-on approach to learning than a traditional classroom experience where the teacher stands in front of the class and reads from a textbook. We also incorporate character development into our academic program and emphasize the importance of respect and responsibility.”

Porchia said the school also emphasizes the need for parental involvement in their children’s education.

“Our instruction is technology-based and is more individualized to meet the particular needs of each student,” Porchia said. “The students have daily goals that must be met.”

Porchia said music and the arts are also part of the Quest curriculum.

“We are now in our third week of instruction and things have gone well so far,” Porchia said.

Porchia said that the school has 10 staff members and the school day is from 8 a.m. until 3:10 p.m.

“We plan to add one new grade level per year until we reach the 12th grade,” Porchia said.

Ridgway expansion

Ridgway Christian School announced June 26 that it would be expanding from its original campus on Ridgway Road to also encompass the former St. Joseph campus, where its seventh- through 12h-graders are attending classes.

“The addition of the new campus has been phenomenal for us,” RCS administrator Lenora Porter said. “It’s just been a great start. The students seem to be enjoying their own space and campus. Our younger students are also more comfortable now. Our hallways were very crowded before with the big kids stepping over the little people and the little ones afraid of the big kids.”

Porter said the added space makes the learning process more comfortable for everyone.

“We all have a little more elbow room now,” Porter said. “Our secondary enrollment has increased by just shy of 10 students over last year.”

Porter said total enrollment is 400 students, with 115 in the seventh through 12th grades and 285 in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“We’re very pleased,” Porter said. “God has been very good to us.”