By Elise Franco
The Austintown School District is joining the push for more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math-based learning.
The district will begin offering STEM courses to students in sixth and seventh grades during the 2012-13 school year, said Janet Polish, director of 21st-century learning.
She said the program is through Project Lead the Way and is a partnership with the Mahoning County Educational Services Center.
Polish said the sixth-grade course will be an elective that Austintown students can take if they choose.
The seventh-grade course will be a self-contained class of 25 students chosen based on an interview process.
Polish said any student in Mahoning County can apply for a spot in the seventh-grade program.
“We want to start prepping kids with this material,” Polish said. “There are a lot of students who we feel would thrive in an environment like this.”
She said students from other districts chosen for the program would attend class at Austintown Middle School but still be considered a student of their home school, so state test scores won’t be affected.
Polish said the long-term goal is eventually to bring a STEM academy into Austintown Fitch High School.
“We want every kid exposed to this,” she said. “A lot of kids are bored in school because they’re not challenged enough, but this will change that.”
She said STEM programs are becoming integral parts of curriculum for universities and local school districts across Ohio.
“This is something companies are looking for,” she said. “They wants kids coming out of school, high school, with these skills and ready to work.”
Polish said the seventh-grade teacher is hired and paid for by the MCESC, and the Austintown district will be responsible for the sixth-grade teacher.
She said the cost to the district for the sixth-grade course will be about $60,000 and includes the teacher’s salary, a two-week mandatory training course and about 60 computers.
“There is a lot of money out there for STEM initiatives, so we’re looking at writing some grants,” she said.
The deadline to apply for a spot in the seventh-grade STEM program is Friday or until all 25 seats are filled. To apply, or for more information, visit www.austintown.k12.oh.us/STEM, or contact Polish at 330-797-3900, ext. 1512.