District 281 board approves middle school STEM program for 2013-2014

It’s an idea that is bound to attract some attention.

The District 281 School Board approved a proposal Nov. 20 to start a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) magnet school next school year at Robbinsdale Middle School. Up to three sections will open for sixth-graders beginning in the 2013 school year. By 2014, the program will include students in grades 6-7, and students in grade 8 will be added by 2015.

Students matriculating from the School for Engineering and Arts at Olson Elementary will have first priority for enrollment in the new magnet. Additional seats will be filled through a lottery if applications exceed available supply.

One change was made to the original proposal. An additional $67,300 was requested to remove two walls in the northeast corner of room 030, one of the rooms to be used for the program, and expand the lab space devoted to small electrical tool use. Those requested were made in addition to the $28,800  originally requested to remove a ramp and half-wall and relocate the south door in room 030.

A sample class schedule included with board documents indicates that students in each grade at the new STEM school would spend period seven, the final class of the day, in classes based on the “Gateway to Technology” curriculum. That curriculum, developed by Project Lead the Way, is currently being used in the district’s middle school technology education programs.

The proposed budget for the first year of classes at the new STEM program comes in at $253,100, with $152,100 for classroom improvements and enhancements. Transportation costs could total around $35,000.

“I think this plan will work, and we’re pretty excited about it,” said Gayle Walkowiak, the district’s executive director for teaching and learning.

Board Clerk Mark Bomchill explained his reasons before against the proposal.

“I will be (voting no) reluctantly,” he said. “I can’t support something that is going to increase transportation costs. I think that as much as I want a program like this, I can’t support this at this time.”

“One of the reasons that I like this is that students across the district have a chance the participate, and the skills … are the life skills in the 21st century,” said Director Helen Bassett. “I share some of the (transportation) reservations (Bomchill) has … (but) I’m interested in providing something that everyone could use.”

The board (sans Treasurer Linda Johnson, who was absent) voted to approve the program, with Bomchill casting the sole vote against.

The district opened its School for Engineering and Arts at Olson Elementary this past fall.

  • janiah freeman

    so when it stared

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