SHEFFIELD — The city's school district will be expanding its STEM education offerings when school starts back in August.
Assistant Superintendent Carlos Nelson said the addition of labs for the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program is reflective of the school district's commitment to stay current with the technology demands of today's students.
"We're fortunate in our district to have the space to expand these programs," Nelson said. "The demand is certainly there."
And those demands start in kindergarten.
Classrooms at Threadgill Primary School and L.E. Willson Elementary and junior high/high school are being renovated to handle STEM programs when students return to school Aug. 7.
The state recently provided the Sheffield district $269,000 in new technology funding, the majority of which is being used to purchase new furniture and equipment, such as 12 interactive panels whereby students can cast information onto the screen from a digital device.
In addition, classrooms are getting robotics equipment, Chromebooks, iPads, coding materials, and other equipment for engineering projects.
At Threadgill, workers on Monday removed a partition to open the computer lab to the classroom next door.
"We're converting existing spaces as we don't really need stationary computer labs as much any more," said Shelly Hollis, the district's curriculum/instructional specialist, who also heads technology integration efforts throughout the district.
Hollis said there will be four teachers leading the ramped-up STEM efforts next school year.
New engineering-type classes will be offered in the new labs in the junior high and high school buildings.
Threadgill and Sheffield Junior High are getting the most significant face-lifts, according to Hollis, with all new furniture and equipment in the junior high building that is being converted from a science lab. Both schools are being equipped with numerous mobile devices.
Hollis said a teacher covering kindergarten through sixth grades will be working with grade-level teachers to help them learn how to integrate STEM into the curriculum.
Older students will have some elective class options, but all students will be exposed to STEM daily.
"The goal is to have them prepared to make career path choices when they get to high school," Hollis said.
"There's a growing excitement with faculty and students about our STEM initiatives. It's a win-win for us," Hollis said.