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Science school start could be delayed

Former Springfield South High School might not be ready in time for new classes.

The Global Impact STEM Academy might not open this fall as planned and if it does, it will only teach freshmen.

Alternative locations to the former South High School are also under consideration for the first year.

The academy’s board members are expected to vote at 2 p.m. Thursday on a starting date and location for the agricultural science and technology school.

“It’s already, for all purposes, March 1 and so I think some folks feel the clock is ticking in terms of being able to go out and present a product for students and parents in order to be able to recruit students to start,” board chairman Ed Leventhal said.

Interim Director Carl Berg will make a recommendation to the governing board about opening in fall of 2013 or 2014.

He said he hasn’t decided whether to recommend that the science, technology, engineering and math-focused school open in South in 2013, start in an alternative location in 2013 or wait to open until the fall of 2014.

A subcommittee is investigating possible alternative locations for the first year and school officials have talked to Wittenberg University and Clark State about using potential sites on those campuses.

“The plan is still to renovate South High School but I don’t think at this point that we could put a request out for proposals for a design and build and have it ready to go in August,” Leventhal said.

Officials already have decided to open the school with only ninth grade students, after previously planning to open with freshman and juniors. The school is aiming for an initial class of 75 to 100 ninth graders, down from original plans of 160 freshmen and juniors.

“That’s not a good decision for us to make, having 11th graders come in for the first year as we took a closer look at it, all things considered,” Berg said.

During junior year, students typically would have more external opportunities like college classes and internships, he said, so it makes more sense to begin with freshmen and build to that.

Recruiting students, facilities and finances will all play a role in making the final decision, said Leventhal, who anticipates the board will vote on a recommendation from Berg on Thursday.

Time is a factor in determining whether South High can be used for the first class of students, as well as funding for the renovations, said Leventhal.

“Before we could renovate the school … we need to have the money in hand,” he said. “There’s still a fair amount of fundraising … to be done before that can happen. We’re still working on that pretty diligently but I think until we have actual money on hand or in the bank, that would be a limiting factor.”

While several organizations have pledged money, such as $950,000 from Ohio State University, much of that money isn’t in hand yet.

It’s unclear what work will need to be done in the first round of renovations to prepare the school for students or how much it will cost. But a fundraising goal of $4.5 million made up about half of the total $9 million estimated cost of renovations in all phases. The other $4.5 million would come from the state through the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.

Proposed by state Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, the Global Impact STEM Academy is a partnership among Springfield City School District, Wright State University and Clark State University, with assistance from Ohio State and Battelle Inc., a Columbus-based research and development nonprofit.

“The resources available in a $950,000 grant from Ohio State and others and private sector donations for the renovations are a significant increase over what any other STEM school in Ohio has had to open, and signify the intense level of support this school has to open this fall,” Widener said in an email. “The opportunities for high school students to have internships in the largest industry in the state and earn free college credit at the same time is not available anywhere else in the country. And Springfield South will be the hub of this innovative concept.”

The regional STEM school will serve students in Clark and surrounding counties interested in studying food, fuel and fiber sciences.

The governing board of the Global Impact STEM Academy will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center, 275 S. Limestone St.

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