Josh Jennings, the director of the Global Impact STEM Academy, talks about the $13 million renovations underway to accomodate nearly 230 new middle school students next year. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Springfield school’s $13M project will add hundreds of students

Millions of dollars in renovations to the former South High School will allow hundreds more students to attend the Global Impact STEM Academy next year.

The renovations at The Dome are on schedule and under budget, the school’s director said Tuesday, as the school is getting set to open its doors to seventh and eighth graders next year.

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Global Impact Director Josh Jennings said about $13 million will be spent renovating the historic building. The project is being paid for by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission along with grants and private donations.

Both the high school and middle school are expected to be filled next year. More than 500 incoming seventh, eighth and ninth graders have applied to join the school; however, only 345 are likely to be admitted, Jennings said.

Global Impact decided recently to increase the number of students it will serve in each grade from 100 to 115 because it feels it can serve the students in the space it has without hurting the quality of education. That would increase total enrollment from about 350 now to nearly 600 next year.

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Construction is well on its way on the third floor, and a driveway for buses is being built in front. The goal is to build a middle school classroom space that feels transparent.

“The space that is being developed for the seventh and eighth grade is a little bit different,” Jennings said. “It has the theme throughout, which is open space for collaboration and projects. An English teacher might be working with a science teacher at the same time. There will also be spaces to design and create and to make authentic projects.”

Work crews were on site Tuesday getting the area prepared. The goal is to be finished by Aug. 1, giving officials plenty of time before the 2017-2018 school year starts later that month. The old South High School is owned by the Springfield City School District, and Global Impact STEM Academy leases space and is not part of the district.

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Jennings said it has been the goal of Global Impact to open a middle school since it began four years ago. He said enrolling students earlier will prepare them even more for a successful educational experience.

“One of the coolest things about middle school programming is that it offers you more flexibility even than what you have in the high school because you are not playing the ‘credit game’ as much, so you have more opportunity to do really cool things to develop those skill sets,” Jennings said.

Students will also have the ability to earn high school credit in some courses in middle school to get them ahead of the curve, he said.

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The school is hosting interviews with students over the next couple weeks to ensure that the school is a right fit, and then will host a random lottery drawing to fill out the school’s roster.

“It’s not a screening process,” Jennings said of the interviews. “The number one reason we meet is to confirm the data on the application because nothing is worse than running the lottery as the data is submitted and the data is wrong and they are actually an eighth grade student when they said they were going to be in the seventh grade, and now your lottery is all out of whack.”

Jennings said the school is working with an accounting firm to ensure the lottery is random. The only wrinkle is if a student with a brother or sister is selected, their sibling will get in too and staff members’ children will also automatically be enrolled.

Each child will be assigned a number and the lottery results will be posted on the school’s website at the end of the month.