- Our Mission
- Personal Accounts
- Business Accounts
- Investor Relations
- Find Locations
- About Southern
- Contact Us
A new addition to the eStem family
Education is an investment. The ironic realization of that idea was recently addressed during the dedication for the new eStem school building at 123 W. Third St. in downtown Little Rock.
The school will occupy the 49,963 square foot building that originally housed the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Little Rock branch.
According to the press release, the building was erected in 1924 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Because the building in on the Register, specific areas received special restoration attention to preserve original historic materials from the early 1920s construction. Gov. Mike Beebe was present to dedicate the building and deliver the keynote address.
John Bacon, executive director of eStem Public Charter Schools and Sharon Priest, executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership joined the governor. Bacon smiled as he recalled the last two-year history of the school. “We have doubled our high school population. The future is bright!” He continued, “Today’s dedication of eStem High Public Charter School’s new home represents the latest step in our ongoing mission to make our students college ready, career ready and world ready.” It was actually Bacon who made the comparison between the former and future use of the building. “The “e” at the beginning of our name stands for economics and now we are based in a Federal Reserve building,” Bacon commented. The remaining letters in the acronym stand for science, technology, engineering and math. All of these subjects, including economics, are stressed in the school’s curriculum.
The press release stated that Southern Bancorp CDC, a nonprofit subsidiary of Southern Bancorp, acquired the former Federal building in 2009. Witsell Evans & Rasco served as the architects for the renovation and the East-Harding Construction was the contractor.
After months of renovation efforts, the building has been restored with completely new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that meet the current code.
“We are excited to have such a world-class facility available to accommodate our growth and provide students with a learning environment that’s second to none. We are grateful to Southern Bancorp and all the other partners in this project who helped make it possible,” Bacon said.
John French, president of Southern Bancorp CDC called eStem a “school for the 21st Century.” He also mentioned that Southern and other affiliates have provided financing and renovation help to both traditional and nontraditional public schools. Those schools include Helena-West Helena School District, the KIPP Delta College Preparatory Charter School in Helena-West Helena and the Lighthouse Charter School in Jacksonville. “This project has been both challenging and rewarding. A very dedicated, talented and professional development team has produced a functional and beautiful space,” French said.
Priest, who introduced the governor, said she wanted to go back to high school after touring the renovated eStem building.
Beebe pointed to the state’s national ranking when it comes to public education. “We are tenth in the nation…I’m not satisfied, I think we can get higher,” Beebe said. “Education is the total package, it’s vital.” He said the competition from other states is not to be feared, “Nothing makes education better than competition,” Beebe stated. During his closing statement, the governor thanked everyone who helped make eStem High a reality. “The kids thank you,” he said as the audience applauded. In fact, 375 students in grades nine through eleven will begin filling up classrooms on July 19.
Members of the media and guests were invited to tour the facility once the ceremonial ribbon was sliced by Beebe, Bacon, Priest and represented affiliates.
Pressed for time, I quickly slipped into one of the classrooms outfitted with a 3-D projector. Fellow curious tour goers already had the special 3-D glasses on and were watching what appeared to be part of a bioloy lesson.
Walter Pearson, education consultant with BenQ, was on hand to tell people about the technology-advanced program and answer everyone’s questions. Pearson said he believes eStem is the only school in Arkansas to have the 3-D projector system installed in their classrooms. Pearson said the projector uses the same technology that was used to make the movie “Avatar”.
There are over 200 programs designed to work with the 3-D projector. The cost, per student, is minimal according to Pearson. The program costs about $1 to $2 a student.
After sliding on a pair of the glasses and having a piece of bacteria come flying into my vision and watching molecules rotate around the room, I could see the impact such technology could have on young minds.