The Global Impact STEM Academy will remain at Clark State Community College’s Leffel Lane campus next year as board members evaluate the future of the planned location at the former South High School.
The STEM academy — which emphasizes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — opened in August and is a first-of-its-kind program that offers hands-on training in bioscience and agricultural fields for college credit. Bioscience jobs are expected to be in high demand in the job market, experiencing rapid growth in Ohio in recent years.
The governing board made the decision Monday to stay at its current location inside Shull Hall at Clark State for one more year.
“For the first year and the second (year), it’s a great facility,” Board President Ed Leventhal said.
The biggest obstacle for the planned renovation at the South High location, Leventhal said, is fundraising.
The renovations are expected to cost between $3.5 to $4.5 million for the 60,000 to 70,000-square-feet expected to be used to house the academy.
The school has approximately $900,000 to $1 million in committed donations for the possible renovation project at South High, which closed in 2008 with the opening of Springfield High.
“It’s important to note that wherever we go, whether we stay on Clark State’s campus or go to South or find a third alternative,” Leventhal said, “dollars are going to have to be raised.”
Leventhal said the school can get by another year at Clark State, but he doesn’t believe it can operate in the school’s third year without more space.
Leventhal said renovations will need to be made to the roof and heating and air conditioning at South. The academy would use only part of the building, while renovations may need to be made to the entire facility. The building is still owned by Springfield City Schools.
Regardless of fundraising, Leventhal said every board member needs to determine the best location for the academy.
“Now that we are going to have one or two years under our belt, I think everyone needs to evaluate what facility gives us the best opportunity for success and growth,” Leventhal said.
GISA Founding Director Joshua Jennings said the students and staff at Clark State have been “a pleasure to work with.”
The school began with 50 freshmen, and within the first 10 days, four returned to their home school districts.
“It just wasn’t right for them, and that’s OK,” Jennings said.
All eight public high schools in Clark County and three in Champaign County — including Graham, Triad and Mechanicsburg — have at least one freshman currently enrolled at the STEM academy. Figures show 22 of the 46 students come from Springfield High School. The next highest number is seven students who come from the Clark-Shawnee school district.
Jennings said the number of students enrolled was perfect for the first year because it allowed teachers and staff to provide unique experiences in an easy manner.
“Logistics allow you to do that,” Jennings said. “You only need one bus.”
It’s also allowed the instructors to have critical early successes while also allowing them to plan and develop for the future.
“We’re confident in where we’re moving going into next year,” Jennings said.
Lane Grimm, 14, chose to attend the STEM academy rather than his home school, Northwestern. Grimm heard one of his friends talk about the academy last year and, after researching the school online, he decided to approach his parents about possibly attending.
Grimm, who plans to pursue law, called the school “quite amazing” and said it is different from anything else he’s experienced during his education. He said they recently extracted DNA from strawberries and plan to spend the J-term at different college campuses.
“It’s just a totally different experience,” Grimm said.
Kori Grimm, Lane’s mother, believes her son has jumped three grade levels since school began last August because of the school’s hands-on approach with technology and mastery learning.
“They’re working with real companies, real problems,” Kori Grimm said. “It’s amazing the things they do.”
The target for next year is 175 students, Jennings said, which includes both ninth and 10th graders. He said the facility at Shull Hall will be able to accommodate the increased numbers with a few “minor tweaks.”
Jennings said an open house held earlier this month saw approximately 200 people walk through the doors, including 75 prospective students. Current students engaged potential students in science experiments, while teachers and volunteer parents were present to speak about the school’s day-to-day operations. Representatives from Clark State, Wright State University and Ohio State University also attended the open house.
“It was everything we’d hoped for as far as energy, interest, excitement,” Jennings said.
Leventhal believes word of mouth will play a big role in recruitment, particularly with the students and parents.
Leventhal said the board is pleased with the academy’s progress after the first semester.
He praised Jennings for his leadership.
“He’s just done a tremendous job in terms of recruitment and retention, hiring the staff and being the spokesperson for the STEM school,” Leventhal said.
Students can apply at globalimpactacademy.org. For more information, call 937-328-6600.
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has reported on the Global Impact STEM academy since the idea was first announced in January of 2012.