December will be an important month for the second phase of the school district's Reynoldsburg Reach program.

December will be an important month for the second phase of the school district's Reynoldsburg Reach program.

Assistant Superintendent Dan Hoffman told the Reynoldsburg Board of Education Nov. 18 the district will learn next month whether it will receive a $900,000 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) grant from the federal government.

In addition, he said, the planning team that has been researching options for a new elementary school will be ready by then to make a recommendation about the school's academic configuration.

Three "core planning teams" -- one each at the elementary and high school levels and one assigned to focus on a K-12 STEM school -- were appointed in October to review information gathered in a series of Reynoldsburg Reach meetings held between April and June. The teams also were assigned to research school systems nationwide and to discuss ideas and possibilities that could fit in with Reynoldsburg's plan to keep one high school identity, but with two high school buildings.

The district has targeted 2010 to complete construction of a new elementary and high school on the east side of Summit Road.

The STEM grant, if awarded, could provide money to help fund such things as training for teachers, supplies and implementation of the program.

He reiterated that the STEM program is not only a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, but is an instructional approach using inquiry-based and project-based learning.

"Learning must be interactive and it's not that it is the only instructional approach but the lead instructional approach," he said. "It's the notion of having kids and teachers with an essential question in mind, or something they want to discover or inquire about, and having that lead to projects.

"It's bigger than just focusing on science, technology, engineering and math but it's clear internationally that we're behind in those areas," he said.

Superintendent Steve Dackin said with the possibility of being awarded a STEM grant, there is also an opportunity to bring dollars back to Reynoldsburg.

"We're excited about that, but as exciting: We've identified 25 partners to assist us not only with resources but with in-kind support," Dackin said.

"This was an effort to extend out into our community to say 'this is an issue that not only affects Reynoldsburg but also the state,' and I would argue affects the nation about making sure that we educate a generation of children with the skills and knowledge they absolutely have to have," he said.

Regardless of whether the district receives a federal grant, Dackin said 25 partners have offered to assist the district in its STEM initiative programs. They include the city of Reynoldsburg; DynaLab Inc., a Reynoldsburg-based electronics manufacturing company; Dell Corp.; Ohio University; Ohio Dominican University; Otterbein College; the Moody Nolan Architecture firm; the Educational Service Center of Franklin County; Capital University; the Ohio Department of Agriculture; the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society; Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce; WOSU; Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation; and the engineering firm EMH&T.

Dackin said the partners will offer their services free of charge to students in the STEM program for internships, consulting and hands-on training.

"We're excited about this and overwhelmed by the outpouring of their contributions," he said.