LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School is more than just virtual learning. Students can also meet in person every other week for enrichment activities and interventions, and they can play sports and join various clubs from robotics and creative writing to community service and more.

It’s also more than just a temporary pandemic precaution. The faculty and staff are trained and prepared to meet both educational and social emotional needs year-round, with flexible schedules and both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

It’s also more than just another free public school option for families.

It’s an opportunity.

LISA Academy introduces hybrid
Tennille Winston teaches kindergarten and first grade at the hybrid school.

For the kindergarteners in Tennille Winston’s class, it’s an opportunity to grow and develop both academically and socially from the comfort and safety of their homes. This virtual environment can make it easier for shy students to learn how to interact with others.

Winston said she had already seen this in her class within the first two weeks of instruction when a student’s grandparents had contacted her excited about the progress she had seen in her once-shy granddaughter.

“I have seen her blossom, and she is talking more,” Winston said. “You would think that because it is a hybrid platform, you wouldn’t get to see those developments. It has been amazing to see her learn how to use her voice and be more assertive.”

For some, it’s an opportunity for families and communities to be more involved with education. Sherrill Williams, who teaches science for sixth, seventh and eighth grades, said she has seen a huge increase in the level of community and parental involvement in comparison with her prior experience in a traditional public school.

“Now, I see what engagement can look like,” Williams said. “Now, I am getting the training on how to be more diverse, how to collaborate more, how to have that advocacy for my scholars, their parents and my teammates.”

For some, the flexibility of the hybrid school is also an opportunity for students to learn to take responsibility for their education. Both Williams and Lauren Dotson, who teaches high school English classes, said students have been enthusiastic about interacting in live classes and regret having to miss class, but are grateful that they can easily catch up by watching the recorded sessions.

“Pretty much all the students I have talked with during goal-setting sessions mentioned they consider themselves college bound,” Dotson said. “Because this teaches responsibility, independence and prioritizing their time, all these kids are sort of ahead of the curve when it comes to looking toward college.”

The LISA Academy team created the hybrid school as a solution for families who appreciate the flexibility of virtual learning, but don’t want to give up the opportunities for social interaction.

Most of the digital curriculum is through Florida Virtual School, but some pieces that are unique to Arkansas are supplemented through Lincoln Learning Solutions and Virtual Arkansas. A dedicated team of LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School teachers lead live classes, as well as small group sessions and one-on-one meetings.

The teachers and administrators work from the learning center in Little Rock, which promotes more transparency than with working from home and encourages teamwork, according to Principal Aydogan Altun.

“This system is new, first time, and it’s new for me, as well,” Atun said. “As a principal, I’m helping staff members where I can, but in the meantime, they help each other a lot. They learn from each other.”

LISA Academy introduces hybrid
Sherrill Williams, science teacher, shows a classroom where students will meet for in-person enrichment.

The learning center building previously housed LISA Academy West Middle School, but it has been renovated and dedicated to the hybrid school. In addition to the teachers’ area, it includes classrooms and meeting rooms where central Arkansas students will meet for enrichment. (This in-person component is available this year, but it is not mandatory at this point due to concerns about COVID-19.)

Another learning center, located on the LISA Academy Springdale campus, is available for hybrid school students in northwest Arkansas. Over the next six years, the hybrid school hopes to open learning centers for more students throughout the state, according to Dr. Fatih Bogrek, the superintendent.

“We cannot open a school everywhere in Arkansas, but we can go to each part of the state and open learning centers in libraries, schools, churches,” he said. “We can have in-person education in Fort Smith, El Dorado, Pine Bluff, Jonesboro. In that way, we can recruit students from every part of the state.”

As of the end of August, about 120 students had enrolled in the hybrid school, and each student was given a 15” Chromebook preloaded with apps, like a PDF editor. The school is also providing Wi-Fi hot spots for students struggling with connectivity and is currently in the process of purchasing writing pads for all the students.

Before the end of the first quarter, the learning center in Little Rock will also house a STEM Maker Space that will be open to students from the hybrid school, other LISA Academy schools and even other area public schools (by appointment). The Maker Space is equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, green screens, computers, a tool cart and other items for students to build projects, practice coding and do STEM activities.

Williams and Dotson said they are looking forward to the completion of the Maker Space and are excited about the wonderful opportunities available to students in the new hybrid school.

“I really like this model because it is thought-forward,” Williams said. “What we really are thinking about is that next generation — how do we keep our kids competitive in the future? I just see that in this model.”

The hybrid school was just approved in March for a total capacity of 1,050 students, so space is available for more students to enroll. More information is available at or by phone at (501) 451-4200.

Families who are looking for additional education options can also contact The Reform Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that every Arkansas student gets a world-class education, at or by calling (501) 244-9028.

The Reform Alliance (TRA) can help families explore different learning environments to find an option that would best meet their needs. Some of the options include traditional public schools, public charter schools (like LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School), private schools, microschools/learning pods and homeschooling.

“Every child learns differently, and it’s important to find the environment that is best suited for each child,” said Emmy Henley, TRA’s managing director. “We are excited about the LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School because it opens up more opportunities for Arkansas families.”