SPRINGFIELD — A local school board member says that an agricultural bioscience STEM school might be a good idea but putting money into the proposed location at South High School is not.
Officials behind the effort say South is the best choice and the only location in the county with enough space to house the proposed Global Impact STEM Academy. Backers already have raised $7 million of the $10.5 million needed to open the school.
Northeastern board President Leonard Kadel is visiting other boards to talk about concerns Northeastern members have with the project.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for kids, and I think it’s very unique,” Kadel said. “I’m not against that, I’m just against putting all that money into South High School when other facilities are available that are much more conducive to technology.”
Kadel suggested space at the Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center or a closed school building as alternatives.
But those spaces don’t have the 70,000 square feet that the science, technology, engineering and math school would require, said State Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield.
A group involved with the regional STEM school in Dayton toured South, Widener said.
“They believe it’s a great location and has some great attributes to it,” he said.
The Global Impact STEM Academy would be a regional school that would focus on agricultural sciences, an industry that represents one of seven Ohio jobs, according to Widener. It would be the first of its kind in Ohio and bring 50 to 60 new jobs to Springfield.
Former U.S. Rep. Dave Hobson said, “The county where A.B. Graham founded 4-H should not bypass an innovative thing that carries us into the future of ag. The future of ag is high-tech.”
Hobson said a feasibility study is planned. “I just wish everybody would take a breath until then,” he said.
Widener sent a message to Clark County superintendents and board members Wednesday offering to attend board meetings to present more information about the project.
“We’re not talking production agriculture,” said Springfield City School Superintendent David Estrop. “We’re talking about research and development around all kinds of different products and issues that are ag related, ag-bioscience. What you need for that is space, and one of the big hurdles that the STEM schools as they’ve popped up... one of the big obstacles to their ongoing operation is facilities costs. We have a facility potentially that could take care of that problem.”
Some local officials said they do not have enough information about the project.
“I haven’t seen the vision or what direction or what type of students they’re looking for,” said Northwestern and CTC board President Donna Myers. “The one concern I have is education in general now, there’s not funding for what we have and everyone’s cutting. What’s the most fiscally responsible way to get the most students the best education for the dollar?”
Clark County Commissioner David Hartley also said he did not have enough information, specifically on costs of the renovations to South.
Kadel emailed county commissioners about a $125,000 pledge proposed by John Detrick and Rick Lohnes from the county toward the project.
“ ... It’s not a good use of taxpayers money,” said Kadel.
Detrick said the pledge was made based on the county using space in the school for the Ohio State University Extension office.
“It would be an economic stimulus that would employ a lot of people, and we were doing it on the premise that we would be getting relief on the (rent for) 8 or 10 people that we have to pay that are in the extension program,” said Detrick.
Hartley opposes moving the extension office to South.
Organizers have raised nearly 70 percent of the $10.5 million needed to kick off the school in the fall of 2013, Widener said.
“The largest percentage of that is facilities renovations, and the rest of that is start-up,” he said. “We have commitments from Ohio State University and Battelle and the local community and OSFC, and that all adds up to right at $7 million.”
About 80 percent of the total would go toward the cost of renovating South. Officials continue to raise the remaining $3.5 million.
“We’ll be looking for the remainder from other industry partners that we’ll be talking to around the state,” Widener said.
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