Private STEM academy planned in Blount County

Associated Press • Feb 16, 2013 at 6:02 AM

MARYVILLE, Tenn. -- A Tennessee business has partnered with a nonprofit to begin building a private academy in East Tennessee that will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Daily News (http://bit.ly/WrlKCK) reports the Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy would be among the first private STEM schools to open in the state. It is a collaborative effort between Clayton Homes and Innovative Education Partnership Inc.

"We have great public schools in the region," said Clayton Homes President and CEO Kevin Clayton. Two schools in the region are among the top in the state when measured by composite ACT scores.

"Parents want choices, though," he said. "It's real exciting to be in the state of Tennessee."

Ten children from Blount County joined other officials this month as they broke ground on the project. The facility is scheduled to open in July.

IEP board member Sarah Herron said dozens of families have participated in tours of the site where the school will be located. She said officials began enrollment procedures in January and staff members are conducting parent interviews and student assessments.

IEP board member Mary Bogert said there's a demand for more educational choice in the area.

"In Blount County, more than 2,000 school-age children are opting out of the county's public and private schools," Bogert said. "A lot of people are home schooling their children. We also don't have a nonreligious private school in the area, so we're hoping to tap that market."

Herron said school officials are still fundraising in an effort to keep down tuition and offer scholarships in the future.

Tuition at Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy's has been set at $8,900 for the first student, and $8,500 per additional student.

"We're creating more than a school," said Dr. Don Bruce, who is a research professor at the University of Tennessee's Center for Business and Economic Research and serves as IEP's chairman. "This is a game changer."

He said the school has a twofold mission.

"We want to attract high-tech businesses to Blount County. We have a school that emphasizes STEM education, which will help the local economic scene. We're also working to train our new workforce, both locally and beyond. We want employers to look to Clayton-Bradley for their best and brightest employees."


Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.thedailytimes.com

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