NWA Children’s Shelter plans for trauma-informed school


BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — For more than 20 years, the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter has provided a safe haven for kids, all while operating a small school inside its building.

It’s now going one step further and expanding services to the community.

Hope Academy of Northwest Arkansas is the name of the open enrollment charter school that will go in front of the Arkansas Charter Approval in August. 

“This school would be the first of its kind in the state, and it would be one of a handful or maybe the first of its kind in the nation,” says Jake Gibbs, Education Director for the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter. “We will be seeking kids who had adverse childhood experiences, and that can include things like hectic home lives, exposure to drug abuse, deaths in the family.”

Inside the shelter, it would provide trauma-informed care for students who have difficulty learning in a traditional classroom setting.

Honing in on a child’s individualized needs is what sets this program apart.

“Serious and sustained trauma to a child really affects their neural pathways and development. It affects the way they learn and communicate,” Gibb said. “We come in with a high staff-to-student ratio. We have 10 students per class and a teacher, and two aides as well.”

If approved, the shelter will use existing space for classrooms. An extra hand is what Development Manager Kate Lunsford says will make all the difference.

“What we need from the community are people who are as excited as we are about helping children who have experienced trauma, whether that’s investment of time, resources, connections, ideas,” Lunsford said.

It’s an investment that will provide a long-term commitment to children and their families.

Lunsford adds, “if Hope Academy can start with intervention early in a child’s life, it can completely change their future.”

Hope Academy of Northwest Arkansas is planning to serve students from kindergarten to sixth grade.

However, in its first year of opening, it will be accepting students from kindergarten to third grade.

Informational sessions about the school will be held on June 25 and July 10. It is open to public. Breakfast will be served. Find out more information HERE.

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