The new Marysville Early College High School and Union County Innovation Center opened its doors for tours last week ahead of its August opening.

The new Marysville Early College High School and Union County Innovation Center opened its doors for tours last week ahead of its August opening.

The center will be housed in the old Marysville Middle School at 833 N. Maple St., which is undergoing extensive renovation after sitting empty for six years.

The project is a result of a $12.4 million Straight A grant from the Ohio Department of Education.

The Ohio Hi-Point Joint Vocational School District, Columbus State Community College, Honda of America Manufacturing, the Union County Chamber of Commerce and EDWorks are working with Marysville schools on the venture. Ohio's first manufacturing-related early college high school will focus on the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Earlier this month, the school earned an official STEM designation from the Ohio STEM Committee, a group of state-appointed policymakers, agency directors and business leaders.

At its April 10 meeting, the committee approved seven of nine new applications from around the state. The committee said the Marysville school will rely heavily on a partnership with the local Honda plant and will be an educational option for local students.

"In fact, the Ohio STEM Committee was strongly impressed by the solid and evidenced partnerships not only articulated within Marysville's application but demonstrated by the work that has already started this school year," read an Ohio STEM Learning Network post at

The OSLN paired Marysville with central Ohio training sites for ongoing teacher professional development.

"From the Ohio STEM Learning Network, we received a $7,500 grant for professional development and we're going to use that in June for mastery learning and some design theory we're going to use with the staff," Principal Kathy McKinniss told the school board at its April 17 meeting.

Also through the OSLN, McKinniss and Jason Wirth, who teaches AP chemistry at the high school and will focus on engineering at the new school, were accepted to a STEM leaders' conference. Participants meet for six days throughout the year: two each in May and June and two in the fall.

The Straight A project has led to opportunities with other organizations, McKinniss said.

"Cardinal Health contacted us and asked us to come and talk with them about our program and how they might be involved. I've had some contact with Nationwide Children's Hospital and they also want to be involved," she said.

"That has been exciting that they are calling us. It's a big deal that they want to know what our program is going to be like.

"We've started working with Columbus State to organize the early college classes. It looks like we can front-load the high school credits in the first two years, and then as juniors they will get dual-enrollment classes, and we're organizing right now what those classes will be," McKinniss said.

Renovation update

Marysville Superintendent Diane Mankins told the board things are moving along on the construction side, and transformation is evident.

"A lot of the walls are down. They are working on what used to be the choir room. We opened it up to staff to come and take old items," she said. "We also had some surplus, so we had a company come in and do an inventory of what we could reuse."

Craig Kertesz, senior project manager with Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc., said there is $6.5 million left to spend on the renovation. Demolition has taken place in most of the building and things are taking shape in the manufacturing area.

The old band room will hold a large machine and robotic arms.

"There will be a very large window so you'll be able to see in there and see what's going on," Kertesz said.

Work is ongoing in the welding lab as well as a future lecture hall that was once an art room.

"We kept all the ceiling tiles with all the artwork on it. We wanted to make sure we saved that. It was pretty neat," Kertesz said.

The former library will be a teacher workstation.

"There's going to be a large partition with windows put into it. On one side will be the media center/student lounge. On the other side will be the teacher workstation," Kertesz said.

Kertesz also shared photographs of a new lecture hall designed to create a college environment.

McKinniss said she and her team have met with all 145 students enrolled at the school to find out what they want from the experience. They found two recurring requests: college credit and hands-on learning.

Of the 145 students, 40 are girls.

"These young ladies are smart, strong, independent girls that are willing to go into a school that's going to be a little bit different," McKinniss said. "I would say generally, about all 145 kids, these are courageous initiators. They are all exceptional in that way."