By Joseph Pratt
The Portsmouth STEM Academy (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) has come a long way in a few months — let alone a few years. From an idea sprouted planning, and then the conception, and now a commercial has been filmed and premiers this week while the board accepts enrollments.
Francesca Hartop has been spearheading the creation of this school for years and is currently the STEM Board of Education president. Hartop said that she started off juggling the possibility of the actuality of the school, but is now accepting enrollments and getting ready to design lesson plans with the four teachers.
“It has been several years in the making and last year has really been the push towards us wanting to make it happen,” Hartop said. “We were questioning ourselves about whether we could do this or not and we now have this incredible board, fantastic teachers, we’re accepting students, we’re getting inquiries about it all of the time and it is an amazing feeling to see it all coming together and knowing we’ve actually done it.”
The academy is going to be created as a private charter school, until the board can locate a local school willing to sponsor them. Once the school becomes a public charter, they will be eligible for state funding, which will essentially cut the cost of tuition. The school is also planning on a yearly calendar, which will closely resemble Shawnee State University’s (SSU). Tuition for the academy is currently set at $6,700 a trimester, which breaks down to around $558 a month.
This price includes all costs of education, field trips and extra costs associated with the school. The only aspect that is not covered in the cost of tuition is student meals.
The academy is going to be on the second floor of the Garage Café, which Hartop presses will provide extra safety precautions for students, with its limited entries. The layout of the school is going to be open, with no walls separating classrooms. The room will be divided in sections, which the grades will rotate from. The room is also equipped with a lab for science work and robotics.
The school has already accepted the enrollments of 13 local students and the school is currently accepting applications on their website. After an application has been filed, an interview is scheduled and a student is usually notified within 10 business days if they’ve been accepted. The school is speculating a total of around 25 students for their first year.
Financial aid information has been finalized and can be found at www.portsmouthacademy.org.
Local photographer Andrew Dodson created a commercial for the school, which will run on WSAZ and the CW television networks and can also be found on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/piscottiproductions. The video features Headteacher Diana Marsh and the talent of local children.
“I feel like Andy did a really good job at pulling together a video that has the feel and atmosphere of the academy,” Hartop said. “STEM is different from your typical school and he has a great artistic vision of how to wrap it up. We thought it was just perfect.”
A board of education has also been finalized and the board will meet again on May 14, which is closed to the public due to a small meeting space. STEM will be releasing the names and bios of their board members next week.
“We have a good starting board that will help us move forward. The board members have experience in non-profits, academics business and a wide variety of skills,” Hartop said. “I am very optimistic about the people we have supporting our school.”
Joseph Pratt can be reached at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3501, EXT 287, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.