School board votes to move the STEAM Academy
Keeping a promise made to students, staff, and families four years ago, the Fayette school board members voted unanimously Dec. 4, 2017 to take action on a permanent home for the STEAM Academy.
“This has been a priority for our school district for years,” said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk. “Even before I was hired, our staff has been working diligently behind the scenes, investigating leads and visiting potential sites. I’m thrilled to tell our students, staff and families at STEAM Academy that they will be in their new facilities soon.”
The school board took two actions at their planning meeting:
- Purchased a 113,000-square-foot building on 22 acres of land at 1555 Georgetown Road for $10.6 million; and
- Empowered the superintendent to negotiate a lease agreement with Bluegrass Community & Technical College for 50,000 square feet of its Cooper Drive property as BCTC operations are moving to its new campus on Newtown Pike.
Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, STEAM students in grades 10 through 12 will be housed in BCTC’s Cooper Drive building, which is located on the University of Kentucky’s campus in Lexington. Until the 1555 Georgetown Road building can be suitably renovated, ninth-graders at STEAM will remain in their current facility.
STEAM Academy, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, opened in 2013 with 148 students in the old Johnson Elementary School building on East Sixth Street in downtown Lexington. The school places an emphasis on project-based learning and student inquiry, and emphasizes dual-credit opportunities and internships to give students a head start on college.
“The board’s action tonight honors the past, strengthens the present, and builds the future,” Caulk said after the Dec. 4 meeting. “With this vote, the board has fulfilled the vision of the design team that began in 2010. It also enhances our existing Opportunity Middle College program at the Cooper Drive location and opens the door to future innovation such as an early college model in which students are dually enrolled in the school district and BCTC.”
Fayette County Public Schools has an existing partnership with BCTC called Opportunity Middle College (OMC). Serving 100 juniors and seniors each year, OMC enables high school students to enroll in both college and high school courses while completing their high school diploma. The board's action reaffirms the district's commitment to OMC.
“BCTC is committed to expanding opportunities for students in the region at all levels of education. More than 10 years ago, we began providing college dual credits to Fayette County high school students. In 2009, we welcomed the FCPS Opportunity Middle College to BCTC,” said Bluegrass Community & Technical College President/CEO Augusta A. Julian.
Since the school opened, students at Opportunity Middle College have earned more than 4,000 college credit hours.
“Bringing the STEAM Academy students onto the Cooper Campus addresses students’ individual needs and gives them extra support to be successful,” Julian said. “We appreciate working with the FCPS administration and board and know that this kind of partnership will support students to move more quickly and successfully into college.”
STEAM Academy principal Tina Stevenson was thrilled with the board’s latest action. “We are very excited to have a permanent location for STEAM Academy. The location of both campuses will provide STEAM students and staff with optimal access to both Bluegrass Community and Technical College and the University of Kentucky,” she said. “We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with both institutions.”
In addition to the expansion of collaborative opportunities with BCTC, Caulk noted that the acquisition of the building at 1555 Georgetown Road will meet several identified facility needs for the district. As a multi-use facility, the location will also house the district’s re-engagement and dropout prevention academy, which is still in the planning stages.
“In the long term, we also envision using this space as an innovation incubator where we can pilot high-quality programs and schools of choice for students who live in the area,” Caulk said. “For example, I could see us developing a K-8 pre-STEAM Academy to offer an increase in choice and expanded opportunities for families in that area.
“Strategies providing underserved families with innovative learning models and increased choice, expanding partnerships with BCTC, and establishing a permanent home for STEAM are consistent with several imperatives contained in the school district’s 2017 Strategic Plan. Tonight we celebrate a formal collaborative partnership that supports families, provides an innovative solution and model of excellence that enhances educational offerings, and affords options to meet the diverse needs of students and their path to success in college, career, and life.”