It continues to look as if Smyrna will soon have a new STEM charter school option, backed by organizations such as Lockheed Martin Corp., and local colleges, along with several local political and community leaders and technology professionals.
STEM charter schools have a curriculum that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.
On Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal’s office announced that an organization backing the Smyrna Academy of Excellence was among 11 winners of grants in the second round of the Race to the Top Innovation Fund program, a $19.4 million competitive grant program.
The Smyrna Educational Alliance has partnered with Georgia State University, Georgia Tech and Lockheed Martin Corp. to create the Smyrna Academy of Excellence (SAE), which applied for a $2.13 million Innovation Fund grant, and was awarded $50,000.
The school will open in July 2013 for Kindergarten - sixth grades. Over the following six years, the school will expand to K-12th grade until it reaches its capacity with approximately 2,000 students. In 2020, the school will award diplomas to its first graduating class.
“We are very excited about receiving the grant, that along with other grants received, will go towards further developing our school,’’ said Jimmy Arispe, Chairman of the SAE Board. “We’re very appreciative that the governor and his office see the value in our school.”
Wednesday marked the second time money from the nearly $20 million grant program has been handed out. Arispe indicated that SAE already was prepared to apply for the third round of grant money come late spring or early summer. They will also apply for a pair of Walton Family Foundation grants totaling $250,000.
“The Governor’s office said they were very excited about us, but could not award more money to a school that didn’t have its petition,’’ explained Arispe.
That could change in the coming months. Already the board has received confirmation that a letter of intent has been successfully filed with the Cobb County Board of Education. Soon it will submit its 100-plus page preliminary draft to the board, and then by May 1, a charter petition that is due to county.
If all goes well there, a petition will go before the State Board of Education in August.
“We’re well positioned to present a solid and successful petition, and well positioned in building a charter school unlike any in the state of Georgia,’’ Arispe said.
But where will the school be located? The school will in essence be a campus with “retail, residency, YMCA and Emory involvement, senior living,” according the school’s website. There has been talk of the former Hickory Lake apartment site, which the city now owns and markets as . Arispe said utilizing 20 of the 48 acres at the South Cobb Drive/Windy Hill Road location would be idea.
“That is the best spot for us and makes the best sense for the city of Smyrna,’’ Arispe said. “But we’re looking at other parts of town, too.
He indicated that with the help of expected private founding, the school would become a reality. SAE, with a 12-person board and volunteer staff of more than 50 people, is being created, managed, governed, and led by Smyrna educators, parents, and residents.
"We’ve got a wealth of talented people…and what we’re doing is best for the kids in Smyrna and South Cobb,’’ Arispe said.
Does Smyrna need a STEM charter school? Why or why not?