Some Lewisville ISD students will soon be able to carry their passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes with them to middle school.
LISD is moving forward with a plan to bring a STEM Academy to Downing, Forestwood, Creek Valley and Hedrick middle schools.
Lori Rapp, deputy superintendent, told the Board of Trustees on Monday the goal is to have at least Forestwood’s STEM Academy open by the fall of 2021, if not all four.
Under the program each student at these campuses will take a STEM science class all three years of middle school. Students can also take other STEM electives.
Rapp said the district is in the early stages of planning and must develop the science curriculum. District officials said some elective choices will include an emphasis on engineering while others may utilize an interdisciplinary approach using science, technology, engineering, and/or math. These elective choices will be available to all students at the campus.
“We’re going to build upon the foundation that’s been started at elementary,” Rapp said. “And for the electives, we’re looking at Project Lead the Way curriculum, which does a great job from the engineering perspective.”
Rapp said converting the middle school science classes to STEM will provide a smooth entry point for those coming from elementary STEM. She said those who don’t come from elementary STEM can still take STEM science since all students need to learn Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
“The benefit for the STEM students who come from a STEM school is the differentiation in the electives,” Rapp said.
Rapp said the academy will be offered to sixth-graders the first year but will expand to seventh and eighth grade in the following years.
Rapp said the district is looking at a STEM certification for science teachers as it has at the elementary level.
Board members asked how the STEM classes would fit into the school day.
Rapp said the electives will provide those opportunities, and she said before or after school could be used for new or different clubs or contests.
“In middle school, because I have electives in addition to the content area inside the school day we’re able to utilize that space in a student’s schedule to say, ‘You can continue your STEM learning through the electives you take as opposed to having to create more classes beyond what’s in the school day,’” Rapp said. “A student will have to decide if they want to take two elective spots with STEM, or do I want to do fine arts and STEM? That’s the benefit of the model. It’s their choice at that point, and we’re not forcing their hand, so they don’t have to give up anything if they don’t want to.”
Superintendent Kevin Rogers said a student could decide not to take any STEM electives but would still get STEM through the science classes.
Rapp said LISD would consider waiving the middle school requirement of a third year of PE to help fit in a STEM class.
District officials said the STEM Academies at its existing elementary schools appear to be making an impact.
Rapp said families at Donald Elementary were asked if they wanted to continue STEM into middle school. She said the majority of them said they did.
Rogers said their input also showed the importance of extending the opportunities within those feeder patterns.
“Only 25 percent of them said they would leave their existing feeder pattern and go to another feeder pattern for STEM,” Rogers said. “It's pretty eye opening to say, 'yeah, I want STEM, but I want it in my feeder pattern.'”
There were several factors considered when deciding on the first four middle school campuses to receive the distinction. Those included the campus having the capacity to handle transfer students and the campus being in a desirable location.
In addition, the campus needed to be the middle school feeder school to an elementary STEM Academy. And the campus would be highly impacted by a loss in enrollment if the academy went to another school.
Rapp said the district likely won't need to convert any of the schools to accommodate STEM. But she said there will be a cost for the curriculum.
Trustee Tracy Scott Miller suggested looking at the number of students who attend Forestwood for its dual language program and see if it makes sense to move that program to another campus if Forestwood is bringing in a STEM Academy.
Miller asked why this model can't be broadened to include more middle schools.
“I think about the kids who are (coming from) Valley Ridge (Elementary) they are going to have to go to probably Forestwood or Hedrick,” Miller said. “That's a pretty hefty drive.”
Rogers said expansion is the goal but that the district wants to get the program up and running at the initial four middle schools first.