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Students can now apply to STEM school

May 8th, 2012 10:55 pm by Rick Wagner

Select middle school students in two area school systems will start the new school year with school-provided iPads.

Today is the day students from Sullivan County and Kingsport can start applying for a space in the grades 6-7 Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee.

The deadline is 5 p.m. on June 1, and students are supposed to know if they have been accepted by around July 1. Classes will start at IA Aug. 6 in the building currently housing Brookside Elementary, in the Bloomingdale community off Johns B. Dennis Highway and near Sullivan North High School.

Printed brochures promoting the STEM platform school — a school integrating science, technology, engineering and math throughout the curriculum — are supposed to go out with all fifth- and sixth-graders in the two school systems this afternoon.

Up to 80 students from each of the systems, 160 total, will receive an iPad and school e-mail address for class assignments and some, if not all, digital textbooks.

Students who attend the new school will return to a base school in the afternoons for related arts and extra curricular activities, at least for the first year.

The Innovation Academy will be funded by a $1 million start-up grant to the two school systems from federal Race to the Top money and supported by a $500,000 two-year grant to East Tennessee State University to act as a hub to support the school through professional development and disseminating best practices throughout the region and state.

Each system is prepared to spend more than $500,000 on the first year’s expenses not covered by the grant, including the teachers and principal.

The brochures have an application at the bottom, which students or parents can turn in at their school. Or they can be mailed to city school system spokesman Andy True and county school system spokeswoman Jamie Whitinger at the addresses on the brochure.

The applications also will be available and can be turned in at six information sessions this month, all 6 to 7 p.m.: May 14 Ketron Intermediate School (at Sullivan North High); May 15 Sevier Middle; May 17 Colonial Heights Middle; May 21 Holston Middle; May 22 Robinson Middle; and May 31 Eastman Employee Center.

In addition, students and parents can go to, which is supposed to be operational today, to submit an application.

During Monday night’s board meeting, Sullivan County BOE member Jack Bales of Sullivan Gardens asked how the county system would accommodate students from the outlying areas, including the far east and far west areas of the county.

Students from the eastern and western end of the county will be allowed to apply and attend, but Yennie said likely they would have to find a way to get to drop off points within a yet-to-be-set distance from the Brookside building.

“It will be a logistical nightmare, but we think we can do it,” said county BOE Chairman Ron Smith, who along with Yennie and BOE member Dan Wells serve on the STEM platform school governing body. Bales’ district includes some of the outlying western and southwestern areas of the county.

The list of meetings initially included one at Mary Hughes School in Piney Flats, but it was removed before the brochure was finalized.

Yennie said that Emmett Elementary in the Sullivan East High School zone already has a STEM lab and some STEM classes and that he hopes to start STEM offerings at Bluff City Middle School, also in the East zone.

“Obviously it’s more difficult for us than the cities,” Yennie said.

On Monday night, the county BOE reviewed a draft copy of the agreement between the two systems on operating IA, but Yennie said he and Kingsport Superintendent Lyle Ailshe were still working out some fine points in the agreement.

Also, a final contract with Battelle, which is administering the funding of the platform school grant, also is not ready for approval.

The BOE set a called meeting for 4 p.m. on May 16 in the first-floor meeting room in the health and education building off the Blountville Bypass to approve both documents.

Yennie said other details of IA will be worked out. A principal and four teachers from each system are to be on board by May 31 or shortly thereafter, Yennie said.

Aside from transportation, Yennie said curriculum, materials, furniture purchases and other details are being worked out.

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