STEM grants would give schools competitive edge

There are 1.3 billion Chinese, therefore the top 28 percent of their students outnumber all American students combined, Reynoldsburg superintendent Stephen Dackin points out.

"How does the United States compete with sheer numbers? Our niche of creativity and innovation. We have to raise creative children," Dackin said.

To inspire the students in Reynoldsburg to think creatively, the district has applied for two Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) grants totaling $725,000, Dackin said.

One grant would be for kindergarten through eighth grade and the other 9-12.
Originally Ohio awarded STEM grants to educators planning lab projects in the program’s namesake subjects. Now educators, regardless of subject, may apply for money if they plan interactive projects.

"Hands-on kinda things," Dackin said. "Like having a really good science class across all disciplines."

If awarded, he district will use the money to train teachers how to create STEM projects.

As part of the STEM process, the district solicited neighborhood partners. Twenty-five local companies and organizations including four colleges agreed to participate.

Instead of money donations the partners would provide services such as internships, Dackin said.

"Regardless if we get a grant or not this is a good thing for our kids. We are grateful for the initiative," Dackin said. "They committed to the concept not because their name would be in the grant."

Applying for the grants was just one goal of the district’s initiative – Reynoldsburg Reach. Last Spring, the district collected input from 13,000 community members and their recommendations for the future of the schools became Reynoldsburg Reach.

One of the goals of Reynoldsburg Reach is for the district to keep a single high school identity even though the students will be housed in separate buildings.

To those means, one option would be to split the high schools into as many as six charter schools with at least one a STEM school.

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