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New school has one-third of pledged money

Global Impact academy plans August opening, possibly in temporary home.

About one-third of the pledged $1.25 million in donations for the new agricultural science school has been received by the school, but officials say they are confident additional resources are on the way.

As of last week, the Global Impact STEM Academy has received about $410,000 in donations from five of the eight backers who have pledged financial support. About $76,000 of the money received is available for operating costs, according to documents obtained by the Springfield News-Sun.

“I would like to see more of the contributions that have been pledged,” said the school’s treasurer, Scott Gooding of the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio. “The sooner we can get things in the bank, the sooner we can get things up and running.”

On Feb. 28, the governing board voted 6 to 3 to open the school in August of 2013. The board did not vote on a recommendation by Interim Director Carl Berg to delay the school’s opening until August of 2014.

The majority of the money in hand — $333,333 — is earmarked for renovations at South High School, where the science, technology, engineering and math school eventually will be based.

More money for school operations is on the way, school officials said.

“We have also applied for, and I have no reason to think we won’t get it, but they’ve also applied for $600,000 that was set aside by the Ohio Department of Education,” said Ed Leventhal, board chair. “That was unavailable until we had matching funds, which we have more than available now.”

With the $410,000 received and in-kind contributions of $240,000 including a feasibility study and personnel for consulting and curriculum design, the Global Impact STEM Academy was able to apply for the matching grant. Gooding said he expects that grant to be available in three to four weeks.

The $1.25 million in pledged funds brings the school to about a quarter of its total fundraising goal of $4.5 million.

More than $3 million is needed for renovations at South High School to be able to increase enrollment beyond 75 to 100 students after the first year.

“(Ohio State University President) Gordon Gee has committed to helping us raise $3 million plus for the renovation of South,” said Leventhal.

Leventhal referred additional questions on fundraising to Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, who first proposed the STEM school. Widener did not respond to a request for comment.

Berg currently is exploring two possible temporary locations for the school’s first year.

“There is no perfect site, except the one we’re building (at South),” Berg said. “We’re trying to make sure that the one we have is acceptable.”

Finding an alternate location, hiring a permanent director and faculty and recruiting students are the priorities to be able to open in August, said Berg. Most educators are likely already in jobs and won’t be available full-time to the school until July 1.

“The big question still to me is will one of both of these sites be able to accommodate five classrooms of kids at all times and will the science piece be acceptable in the manner in which we have it?” said Berg. “After all, this is a science STEM school.”

Berg said he hopes to finalize the location for the first year by the board’s next meeting March 18.

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