The Reynoldsburg school district's science technology engineering and math (STEM) program has been implemented in a small way this year and should be ready to expand next school year, according to the project coordinators.

The Reynoldsburg school district's science technology engineering and math (STEM) program has been implemented in a small way this year and should be ready to expand next school year, according to the project coordinators.

Planning and laying the framework for the program began last April under the direction of former Waggoner Junior High School assistant principal Leslie Kelly and former middle school standards coordinator Dee Martindale.

Kelly has been overseeing and coordinating planning for the STEM initiative at the high school while Martindale has been coordinating the development of a K-8 STEM unit.

A STEM program has already been started this year for all third-grade students. It will focus on a study of the Blacklick watershed that flows through Reynoldsburg, Martindale said.

By next fall, the STEM program will begin at the high school for grades nine and 10, and by the beginning of the 2011 school year, four additional programs of study will be offered, all designed to present a unique instructional approach for students.

Kelly said the STEM program has already been approved by the board of education. Board approval of the other four programs is expected by 2011.

Eventually, Kelly said, the STEM program and the other four will all become "small school" offerings in the Reynoldsburg school district.

"So eventually there will be five small schools, or academies, each with its own focus, like arts and communications and health sciences," Kelly said.

The STEM program at the high school will focus on environmental sciences, and enroll a total of 100 students in each of the ninth- and 10th-grade levels, she said.

Besides the STEM program, the other 4 future programs of study include arts and communications, international business and marketing, health sciences, law and public policy.

In addition to Kelly and Martindale, a team of 14 teachers and representatives from area businesses and organizations have been meeting since April to design courses of study for the proposed academies of study.

"One of the goals of STEM is to better prepare kids for the workforce, so by having some of these business folks at the table, they can shed a different light that we, as educators, might not be as in tune with," Martindale said.

Kelly said all students are eligible to participate in the STEM programs. There is no GPA requirement, although students will have to submit an application. Some sort of lottery system will be used to select program participants, she said.

Once a student is enrolled in the program, and as the other four are started by 2011, Kelly said a student who has spent two years in one program can transfer to another.

Martindale said the coursework will be primarily in the classroom, but there will be some field opportunities to learn outside the classroom.

"Not only will the students learn the importance of knowing information but also how to apply it," Kelly said.

"Kids will really be able to use their work and instead of just getting teacher feedback, they'll get feedback from these professionals that do it every day," she said.

The Ohio Partnership for Continued Learning awarded Reynoldsburg schools two grants, one for $247,000 for the high school and one for $217,000 for the K-8 STEM, to pay for planning, staff training and implementing the programs.

The long list of partners volunteering to offer assistance in the programs include the city of Reynoldsburg, Dynalab Inc., Dell Corp., Ohio University, Otterbein College, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society and the Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Metro Parks, Ohio Dominican University, Moody Nolan architects, the Educational Service Center of Franklin County, Capital University, WOSU, Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation and the engineering firm EMH&T, Battelle Institute, MAD Scientists, Five Seasons Landscape Design and Management, Knowledge Works, PAST Foundation, the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, COSI, Friends of Blacklick Creek, the Ohio EPA, the American Society of Engineers, Mechanical Innovation Inc. and Minuteman Press.