Springfield STEM school gets $6.3M for expansion

Clark State completes food science lab, auditorium project progressing at former South High School.

The school has already announced it plans to add seventh and eighth grade classrooms in 2017.

It’s the latest development at the former South High School on South Limestone Street where Clark State Community College recently completed the first phase of its food science lab construction, and the Greater Springfield CareerConnectED Center is finished with additional renovations in its part of the building.

Springfield City School District, which owns the building, also plans to renovate the auditorium. The $2.3 million project has already received large donations from Springfield-graduate John Legend and Speedway. Demolition is complete on the auditorium and the Clifton lobby, and remodeling should begin within the next month.

The funds for GISA, which come from the state’s STEM Facilities Assistance Program, still need final approval from the Controlling Board, but Director Joshua Jennings said he expects that to happen later this month.

The money is a state match the school is eligible for because it’s already invested the same amount in the first phase of construction at the historic building — about $5 million from a state Straight A grant and $1 million in private fundraising.

The new money will be used to renovate space on the floors above and below the current YouMedia Center, which sits under the iconic dome, as well as classroom space on the third floor.

“In addition to the classroom space needed to serve seventh and eighth grades, we hope to add additional space for specific programming needs in the areas of bioresearch and biotechnology,” Jennings said. “There will also be additional renovations in site work as well as cafeteria space and classrooms dedicated to support our extensive offerings in College Credit Plus coursework on the fourth floor around the dome.”

Renovation is slated to start this spring and continue throughout the 2016-17 school year, he said.

When current GISA students headed back to class in early January, they had the opportunity to enroll in the first Intro to Food Science course offered by Clark State Community College just down the hall from their high school classes.

The college completed construction of one classroom, one office and a large food science lab on the second floor of the The Dome in early January.

The $1 million project was phase one of the college’s plan to house its Food Science and Technology degree program at the center. Students in the program will learn how to package food, research and test it, and market products, all skills that local employers have said are crucial to fill workforce needs, the college said.

Agribusiness accounts for 14 percent of Ohio’s employment, or about one out of seven jobs, according to Ohio State University studies.

The program provides two pathways, one that transfers to a four-year degree program at OSU and one that prepares students to enter the workforce after two years.

Clark State has submitted a capital request to the state for an additional $1.5 million to complete the second phase of the center, Marketing Manager Laurie Means said.

“The requested funding will pay for equipment and furnishings for the Food Science and Water Resources Programs at the Dome, including state-of-the-art chemistry and water resources laboratories,” Means said.

The school has previously announced its plan to build an aquaculture lab.

Both GISA and Clark State students are enrolled in the community college class meeting at The Dome now.

“We’re still waiting on a few pieces of equipment, but it’s up an running,” said Richard Sykes, assistant dean of business and applied technologies.

The laboratory is a combination of a large kitchen with state of the art equipment and a traditional science lab.

Food science classes aren’t culinary classes, Sykes said, but the students will need to prepare, store and manipulate food in order to complete their studies.

In one experiment the intro course will conduct, they’ll make french fries with various additives to study the effects.

“So much of what (food scientists) do is so impactful on our daily lives,” Sykes said. “One of the first aspects that (the students) will study is food safety at a production level.”

It’s relevant work considering recent wide-spread food safety alerts, he said, like the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle and the recent Listeria outbreak linked to a Dole facility in Springfield.

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