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Springfield STEM school selects architect, builder

Renovation of former South High School will be done in phases, officials say.

Springfield’s new bioscience high school is a step closer to moving into its permanent home at the former South High School at 700 S. Limestone St.

The Global Impact STEM Academy governing board last week selected a local architect and construction company to renovate the historic school building, which was modeled after the U.S. Library of Congress. Kapp Construction Inc. was selected as designer and builder, and Steve Sharp was named as the architect, officials said.

“It is a big step forward as we just keep progressing toward that location,” said Josh Jennings, director of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) academy. The school opened Aug. 21 with an inaugural class of 47 students at its temporary location at Clark State Community College’s Shull Hall.

Daren Cotter, chief financial officer for the Turner Foundation and a STEM academy board member, said the school will expose Springfield-area students to the agricultural industry and prepare them for high-demand, high-wage jobs in such fields as fuel, food, energy and the environment.

“This is a good opportunity to connect the kids with the education, the technology and then the final user, the business, in a real way while they are still in school,” Cotter said.

Plans call for the former high school to be renovated in three phases, with the first floor being completed for the 2014-15 school year, Jennings said. The second and third floors would be renovated in subsequent years, based on student enrollment.

Enrollment next year is expected to be 175 students, including about 100 incoming ninth-graders, he said. Applications will be accepted starting in January.

The academy ultimately will occupy from 60,000 to 70,000 square feet in the south wing of the 200,000-square-foot facility, starting with less than 30,000 square feet during the first phase. Officials also hope to use some of the school’s outdoor space to support its bioscience and agriculture curriculum.

The project cost has been estimated at $3.5 million. However, Jennings said a precise dollar figure can’t be determined until the design work is completed.

Springfield City Schools, the site’s owner, has granted the design team access to the building to complete schematic drawings, which will be shared with academy staff and potential financial donors.

“Fundraising is active,” with commitments from the Turner Foundation, Springfield Foundation, Springfield Port Authority and the Dayton Development Coalition, Jennings said. Academy officials are pursuing foundations, philanthropy groups, and private entities with an interest in STEM education or the building itself, he said.

The academy plans to lease the former high school space for $1 per year, in exchange for its tenant improvements on the property, Jennings said.

Officials plan to preserve the historic look of the building, which is known for its large white dome, while retrofitting its interior to meet the modern technological needs for STEM education and collaborative learning.

“The spaces on the inside will look different than what people may remember them, but the physical attributes that make that building so unique will remain the same,” he said.

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