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School pushes to recruit students

New Springfield bioscience academy could open with 30 freshmen.

A new agricultural bioscience school that will open its doors in August has less than two months to hire a full staff and recruit the remaining 60 percent of freshmen students it hoped to start with.

Despite the time constraint, officials believe the Global Impact STEM Academy will attract at least 30 students and have a full slate of five staff members installed by the time classes start Aug. 21 at its temporary location at Clark State Community College.

As of Thursday, Global Impact had about 30 applications in hand from students in 10 school districts from as far away as Covington, Mechanicsburg and Graham, Director Josh Jennings said.

Officials rolled back their first-year student population recruitment plan to a maximum of 75 freshmen, down from early projections of 160 freshmen and juniors.

“Whether we have 30 students, 50 or 75, we’re going to move forward,” Jennings said.

While student interest so far is lower than officials hoped, Jennings said the first-year numbers are based on other STEM academy enrollment figures from across the state.

Officials project enrollment to increase each year until it reaches the target of 600 students in 9th through 12th grades. That too, is projected based on other STEM school findings, he said.

Jennings believes recruitment will build upon itself in the coming years as more area students and families see firsthand what’s being offered.

“It’s no different from any other STEM school that we’ve seen across the state,” he said. “In that first year, most students that do apply get in and then in subsequent years, you have more students apply than you have seats for, because now there is something tangible that’s going on that they can feel and touch and see.”

Several recruitment events are planned this summer to engage potential students.

The decision by the governing board to move forward with the fall opening ran contradictory to the recommendation of the academy’s former interim director, Carl Berg, who believed officials should delay the its opening until 2014 for financial reasons.

The Springfield News-Sun reported previously that the school is projected to operate at a deficit the first several years.

School officials will present three different fiscal year budgets based upon enrollment of 30, 50 and 75 students for approval of the board at its July 1 meeting.

“Obviously, in the start-up year, you’ve got a lot of initial expenses and operational expenses that you won’t have in subsequent years,” said Melanie Wilt, CEO of Wilt PR, the academy’s public relations firm. “It’s hard to make those adjustments, but it’s necessary to move forward with it instead of waiting and saying, ‘Well here’s a magic number that we have to wait on.’ ”

The more students the academy enrolls, the more revenues it will see; state dollars follow the students, Jennings said.

As for staff, Global Impact has hired science instructor Rachel Sanders, who comes to the academy from Springfield City Schools, and Kathy Kohlbacher as the administrative assistant. Jennings started full-time June 1.

Language arts, mathematics and social studies instructors still need approved by the governing board, but that could happen at its meeting July 1, according to Jennings.

Governing board changes were announced with the addition of Ed Cross of Blue Stone Solutions, who represents the Clark County Farm Bureau, and Jo Alice Blondin, incoming president of Clark State Community College, who replaces Karen Rafinski when she retires July 1.

It’s still not clear when the academy will move to its proposed permanent home at the former South High School in Springfield.

The plan at this time is to open there during the academy’s second year, but that’s dependent on many factors, Jennings said.

If necessary, it might extend its lease with Clark State or move to another location next year, he said.

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