An independent public science and technology school in Springfield is set to expand to seventh and eighth grade students this fall, a sign of its rapid growth.
Global Impact STEM Academy will welcome 115 middle school students to its newly renovated, $6.3 million classroom space on Aug. 16. About 60 students are on a wait list for the middle school.
Global Impact STEM Academy isn’t part of the Springfield City School District. GISA rents space from the city district at the old South High School, now called the Dome, but is only in one wing of the building.
The middle school will be on the third floor of the GISA wing. Global Impact Director Josh Jennings said the opening is exciting.
“The space is really unique from an educational stand point because we try to make it as flexible as possible,” he said. “Global Impact is cross-disciplinary in nature and so students just don’t go to math class or science class or English, they work on projects that have applications for all those disciplines all at once, so we try to have space that is common in nature and collaborative in nature.”
The new area allows teachers to combine classes to work on different projects together, Jennings said. Twenty new staff members will start working at the school this fall, 11 of them will be teaching middle school.
One of the new staff members is 19-year veteran teacher Lauri McCutcheon. She will be teaching seventh grade English.
“Every time we would go to any event that STEM had last year, whether it be just learning what they were about, I’d come home and I literally couldn’t go to bed,” she said. “I was so excited for my daughter, as well as my son’s future.”
Her daughter, Maddie McCutcheon, will enter the eighth grade at Global Impact this fall. She said she’s excited about her new school.
“When I was at my old school, I liked it but it was kind of normal,” Maddie said. “Same schedule all the time. There was no creativity.”
For Lauri McCutcheon, the science, technology engineering and math school will mandate that she changes her teaching techniques, she said, a challenge she’s ready for.
“It’s more hands on learning, very much more,” she said. “The kids get to be in charge of what they are going to learn about.”
The opening of the middle school is a symbol of the success of the school, academy Board President Ed Leventhal said.
“It’s quite a testament to Josh and his staff for the growth that the impact STEM Academy has had and the fact that things have gone extremely well and there is a major desire of people in Springfield and the surrounding area to enroll and participate in the academy,” Leventhal said.
The school began with humble roots four years ago in a couple of classrooms at Clark State Community College.
“When the school started one of the things that we questioned was will we have the same numbers as similar schools in Dayton or Columbus and I think within Clark County part of it is there are not as many options as you can imagine,” Jennings said. “The demand and the desire for the program have really come about and we have seen that.”
Global Impact STEM Academy graduated its first class in the spring. It’s growing predominately because of word of mouth, Jennings said.
That’s how Lauri McCutcheon learned about the school.
“Everything that I have heard has been positive,” she said. “They have had positive experiences.”
For now, there’s no talks to continue to expand the school into lower grades, Jennings said.
The school is considered a success, Leventhal said, but he also said some education professionals didn’t like the idea of the academy when it first started. He said about 30 percent of Global Impact students come from Springfield City School District, making them competitors. However he said he doesn’t regret helping start the school.
“I would do it again,” said Leventhal, who’s also the Springfield City school board president. “I have taken some heat from some folks with the Springfield City Schools and some county school districts but at the end of the day, it’s what’s best for our students, community, work force development and economic development and providing as many opportunities for our young people.”
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By the numbers
$6.3 million: The amount invested to open a middle school at the Global Impact STEM Academy
115: Number of seventh and eighth graders that will attend GISA for the 2017-2018 school year
60: Number of seventh and eighth graders that are on a wait list to attend the school