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Sullivan officials field questions about STEM platform school

May 14th, 2012 10:46 pm by Rick Wagner

KINGSPORT — Sullivan North Middle School will “definitely” be a base school for the new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) platform school in Bloomingdale, Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said Monday.

A base school is where students would return about 12:30 p.m. each school day to have related arts as well as band and after-school activities, including athletics and cheerleading.

On the other hand, Yennie said Holston Valley Middle School in the far eastern end of the county likely won’t be among a group of four or five county base schools.

But he added that students there can attend the STEM school if they can get to a designated bus transfer point and are willing to attend another base school in the afternoon, and that the Sullivan East High School zone will have a STEM classroom at Bluff City Middle School.

Yennie was answering a question from a parent at an informational session for the grades 6-7 Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, a joint project of Kingsport and Sullivan County to be housed starting this fall term in the Brookside Elementary building in Bloomingdale. The session was held at Ketron Intermediate School inside North High School. Next year, that will become Sullivan North Middle inside North High.

Innovation Academy by 2014 is to expand to grades 6-12, and in its third year is to be open to enrollment from students across Northeast Tennessee.

Innovation Academy project manager Brenda Barnicki said the city base schools will be Sevier and Robinson middle schools, and Yennie said four or five of the county’s eight middle schools likely would be base schools.

“It (the assigned base school) may not be at the particular base school they are zoned for,” said Barnicki.

Yennie’s comment about North Middle came in answer to a mother’s question about the already-held tryouts for the cheerleaders at North Middle and what would happen if the system switched a student to another school after she had made a cheerleading squad at the school she was attending.

“Is math and science more important than cheerleading?” Yennie asked.

Barnicki said school officials would work with cheerleading and other coaches to try to address whatever situations arise.

Another question that went unanswered Monday was whether a student whose home has been annexed by Kingsport but who chose to remain in the county school system would apply for a city slot or county slot.

Barnicki said she’d have to get an answer for that and would post it on the school’s Web site:

The same parent, Wendy Johnson, asked whether such a student could go back to a county base school instead of a city one. Yennie said he believed the answer was yes.

Students in later years can opt out of the school but have first priority if they choose to stay. Barnicki said students are asked to stay the entire year once the school year gets under way.

Siblings of existing students would have second priority, followed by the general public, said Barnicki. Yennie said siblings who apply at the same time likely would be both accepted or not rather than being split between two schools.

Other questions focused on the curriculum, which Barnicki said sometimes would blur the lines among English, math, science and social studies. In addition, the school is not just for gifted or advanced students but for all with an interest in science and math and a willingness to work hard, although Barnicki said project-based learning is also fun.

“It is a school for the motivated,” Barnicki said.

Applications must be received by 5 p.m. Friday, June 1. They can be done through the Web site, with forms available at the information meetings or sent to the city or county school systems.

Other informational sessions, all from 6 to 7 p.m., are set for tonight at Sevier; Thursday at Colonial Heights Middle; May 21 at Holston Middle; May 22 at Robinson; and May 31 at the Eastman Employee Center.

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