A project to raise funds to enhance programming at the new Upper Arlington High School when it opens in August 2021 is close to its goal, according to those associated with the campaign.

Last spring, Upper Arlington Schools broke ground on the construction of a new high school and rebuilds and renovations to five elementary schools.

The projects are being funded by $230 million in bonds, approved by voters in November 2017, as well as $5 million that was raised privately through the Upper Arlington Legacy Capital Campaign.

Additionally, the district has sought to raise $2.5 million in private donations through The Honor Project, for "programming and equipment that will distinguish Upper Arlington Schools and continue to be a district to emulate," according to the district's website.

To date, approximately $1.85 million has been raised for The Honor Project.

"We are at 91% of our $7.5 million goal (for the Legacy Capital Campaign and The Honor Project), which is $6.85 million raised since our fundraising efforts began in January 2019," said Aimee White, chairwoman for the Legacy Capital Campaign steering committee. "The donations have ranged from $20 to $1 million."

White said the committee hopes to raise the final $650,000 by this spring.

UA Schools Superintendent Paul Imhoff called the overall Legacy Capital Campaign "incredibly significant" to the district and community, adding that it allows the district to complete the full scope of the facilities projects.

He said the campaign would allow the district to offer enhancements to the school and the student experience.

"No Ohio public school has taken on a project of this magnitude before," Imhoff said. "In fact, we believe it to be the largest amount ever raised in our community.

"It has really been a joy to be able to talk with many of our donors and learn why our schools have meant so much to them and their families."

White said the money raised for The Honor Project would affect students' daily academic and co-curricular experiences by allowing the district to provide "the highest quality educational experience" and maintaining the district as "the hallmark of our community for the next century."

The equipment the money will purchase hasn't been determined but is expected to be by spring semester 2021.

District officials have determined the money will go toward bolstering outdoor learning spaces at UAHS that will be set up when the new building is constructed, as well as soundproofing practice spaces for performing-arts programs.

Additionally, much of the money will be invested into the high school's science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming, said Keith Pomeroy, the district's chief academic officer.

He said students at the high school and in other district buildings already are doing great work in robotics, computer science and mathematics, but the district -- and high school, in particular -- lacks collaborative learning spaces and tools for them to achieve higher heights.

The collaborative spaces will come with the construction of the new building, and The Honor Project will help provide additional tools and resources, Pomeroy said.

"All these groups are receiving really high success in these really authentic spaces," he said. "Our goal, long term, is to kind of take these disparate things that have happened based on people's passions and interests and say, 'How can we create guaranteed opportunities?' "

By using The Honor Project money at the high school, Pomeroy said, the district can demonstrate to younger students what learning possibilities are.

They can begin to cultivate STEM-based ideas at younger ages and even collaborate with high school students or have access to resources to pursue them once they reach high school.

Items that Pomeroy expects the new high school to have, thanks to The Honor Project, include higher-power routers for Internet access and 3D printers for prototyping and creating finished products, as well as laser and vinyl cutters.

"We have highly successful kids at the high school level already," he said. "This just provides more opportunity for us to open up people's views below them.

"It is not systemic (now). Opportunities have been based on interest. Staff or students have a specific interest and they go in a certain direction."

In an effort to make STEM thinking and learning more systematic, district officials hope to increase access to learning opportunities that are expected to include research and design.

"There's an opportunity for us to give access to all the tools they potentially need," Pomeroy said. "We've had kids who've worked with different fabricating shops in the area" because high school doesn't have them.

"This will allow us to build a cohesive space where these kids can collaborate and really narrow in on all the different items they need. There've been pockets of opportunity and we really need to get where we have consistent approaches.

"This is an opportunity at the high school to say, 'Here are all the resources that we want to have in place.' "

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