Springfield News-Sun: Survey supports ag bioscience school for Springfield

By Megan Gildow Anthony, Staff Writer

A majority of parents and students surveyed said they would consider a science, technology, engineering and math-focused high school if available in the Clark County area.

The survey, part of market research funded by the Springfield City School District for $14,500, tested the marketability of an agricultural STEM school called the Global Impact STEM Academy, proposed by Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield.

Nearly 85 percent of the more than 500 Clark County parents surveyed — a sample size larger than many political surveys — said they thought the STEM school was a good idea. Seventy-three percent said they would allow a child who wanted to attend the school to enroll.

“We think we have a pretty favorable, pretty marketable idea, things that parents like,” said Widener.

In a similar survey of students, 63 percent responded that they thought the plan for the school was a good idea. About 28 percent said they would attend the school and 50 percent said they might attend.

Students and parents in the survey responded affirmatively to other parts of the plan as well, including the school’s partnership with the Ohio State University.

Widener hopes the Global Impact STEM Academy, which would focus on agricultural biosciences, would be the first of a network of similar schools around the state.

During a community meeting last week hosted by the city schools, several residents and community leaders spoke in support of the school, especially a plan to re-use South High School, which closed as a school in 2008, as the school’s location. The STEM school would occupy about 70,000 square feet in South High and renovate the space using about $4.5 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission and $4.5 million in fundraising.

Officials hope to open the school in the fall of 2013 with an inaugural group of about 200 students in 9th and 11th grades.

“This school’s going to grab a bunch of those kids that can’t do things in a regular classroom, but they get over there and they can really bloom. We’ve spent so long trying to teach everybody the same way … I really believe that this is another piece of that puzzle that will make things work for kids,” said Basil Fett, a retired Huber Heights teacher who lives in Springfield.

Jordan Copeland, who coaches middle school basketball for the city schools, said he had seen several companies mentioned by Widener as potential industry employers, at a recent job fair.

“Those companies were there recruiting engineers, chemical engineers, bioscience engineers,” he said. “If they’re coming out of Springfield, I just think that’d be awesome.”

Copeland said he liked that the school would include project-based learning.

“I think actually seeing those things, getting hands-on, getting experience is something that a lot of kids in our community don’t necessarily get the opportunities to do,” he said. “A school like this just would provide some of these kids a chance no one else in the state’s getting.”

A retired agriculture teacher from New Carlisle, Paul Snyder stressed the importance of internships and experience if the school were to be located in the city.

“If you’re gonna have it here.. because it’s in the inner city and unrelated to rural areas I think you want to really emphasize and have the internships,” he said.

If the plan comes to fruition, the Global Impact STEM Academy would be the first regional STEM school in the state to tie itself to an industry. Approximately one in seven Ohio jobs are in the agricultural field, according to Widener.
The Global Impact STEM Academy by the numbers
70,000 square feet of space needed for the STEM school
1 in 7 Ohio jobs in the agriculture field
2013-14 school year goal for opening the Global Impact STEM Academy
200 students wanted for the first year
$9 million in renovations at South High location
$4.5 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for renovations
$4.5 million from fundraising for renovations

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