State panel OKs STEM designation for proposed Youngstown school
By Denise Dick
The Mahoning County Educational Service Center will open a year-round Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics school in fall 2015 with a manufacturing and entrepreneurship emphasis.
The Ohio STEM School Designation Subcommittee last week approved the ESC’s application for the Valley STEM+ME2 Academy. The subcommittee includes representatives from the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Board of Regents, the Ohio Department of Development, the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.
In August 2015, the Valley STEM+ME2 Academy will open to 100 students in the ninth and 10th grades. Plans call for it to open to 11th- and 12th-graders in later years.
A location hasn’t been identified.
Similar to when a student leaves a home district for a charter school or to go to another district through open enrollment, the academy would be financed with the per pupil state funding that follows from their home district.
MCESC Superintendent Ron Iarussi said the ESC plans to seek grants for the school as well.
“Once you get the STEM designation, it opens doors for grant opportunities,” he said.
Partner districts are Struthers, Canfield, Poland and Austintown, but the school would be open to students from all over the state. STEM would be embedded in the kindergarten- through sixth-grade curriculum of partnering school districts. In seventh and eighth grade, those students would be housed in separate classrooms and in ninth and 10th, attend the academy.
Initially, the center planned to apply for state Straight A funding for the project, but a change in the parameters for those grant dollars altered those plans. Straight A-funded projects are supposed to save dollars immediately. While working collaboratively to provide the STEM education, the four partner districts may be able to save money in the future. But the savings won’t be immediate, ruling out that grant avenue, Iarussi said.
When the academy was proposed in a meeting in February, downtown Youngstown was the location being considered because of its proximity to Youngstown State University and manufacturing facilities. Iarussi said downtown Youngstown was removed from the application for the designation after city school officials voiced concerns about a lack of discussions with them about the proposal.
“We’ve still not chosen a specific location yet,” he said.
“We want to make sure it’s a feasible and conducive to what we’re trying to accomplish.”