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Jackson R-2 to provide free ACT test to all juniors

The Jackson R-2 School District approved a proposal to provide the ACT assessment for free to all juniors at Jackson High School during their September meeting.

The district started funding the test for all juniors last year, after the State of Missouri stopped funding the free test. The expense was already budgeted for the district and totals $18,000.

“It’s something that we feel is really important,” Superintendent John Link said. “Will every kid who takes the ACT benefit from it — maybe not? But if we find one child who then thinks they can go to college, to me it’s worth it.”

This year the test will also include the ACT WorkKeys, which can earn students a National Career Readiness Certificate. Link said the certificate can help students earn more money if they go straight to the workforce or could help them get into vocational schools.

In other action:

• Brad Haertling and Mike Holloway spoke about the summer school class they taught for outgoing fourth and fifth grade students at the middle school. Haertling, who is known as the pedaling pioneer, traveled to Iceland and communicated through a blog and videos with a class full of students with Holloway.

Haertling visited geothermal hot springs, waterfalls and glaciers while riding his bike through Iceland. Holloway, who teaches science, created hands-on science experiments for students to relate to what Haertling was doing overseas.

Haertling was able to show students the scale of the natural sites through the use of a drone, funded by the Jackson R-2 Foundation. He came back to Jackson for the end of the class and was able to bring back fish jerky from Iceland for the students to try.

Haertling, who teaches social studies, has done these trips before, but never with a science co-teacher. Haerting has previously visited Vietnam and traveled the Oregon Trail. He is currently trying to plan next year’s expedition, stating he would love to visit Cuba or visit France on the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“This is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my 30-year career,” Link said. “I can’t imagine there’s another summer class anywhere like this.”

• The board discussed the preliminary enrollment numbers for the school year. The official count will be submitted on Sept. 26. The district, at the time of the board meeting, has 5,164 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade. That is an increase of 134 students, compared to the same time last year.

Link said the total increase in students is similar to last year, but instead of mostly seeing increases in the lower grades, the students added are more spread out by age. Kindergarten, second grade, sixth grade, seventh grade, ninth grade and 10th grade all saw increases of 20 or more students.

“It looks like when people finish sixth grade, they want to come to Jackson and when they finish eighth grade, they want to come to Jackson,” Link said.

Link said the district will continue to monitor if these increases continues in upcoming years, especially at the middle school and junior high. The junior high has around 850 students and the middle school has around 870.

“The next things we’ll have to start looking at is watching that and seeing if after this bubble comes through, there’s another bubble that comes behind it or if it goes back to normal,” Link said.

Assistant Superintendent Beth Emmendorfer added that the district has been able to keep class sizes under 25 students for all elementary classes through third grade. She said some fourth grade classes are at the 25-student line, but Missouri’s department of education guidelines allow for class sizes to grow at that age.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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