Fort Wayne Community Schools is considering classroom space at Electric Works, the sprawling former General Electric campus being renovated for multi-purpose use.
A letter of intent has yet to be signed, but the vision is for a STEAM school to be operated by FWCS on Electric Works' west campus, said Kevin Erb of Ferguson Advertising, the local firm working with the development group. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
The letter of intent has to be approved by the district's board, which Erb said he expected soon.
The idea is in line with past statements by the district. Superintendent Wendy Robinson, accompanied by children from Fairfield Elementary School, was at last year's announcement revealing plans for the site. District spokeswoman Krista Stockman later said Robinson attended for the education possibilities.
The STEAM school, for grades 6 through 12, would be similar to FWCS' Career Academy at Anthis, which offers experience in various fields, but would not have the same programs, Stockman said Friday. It would be open not only to FWCS students but to others from public and private schools in northeast Indiana.
The emphasis would be on project-based, hands-on learning, she said, "all those things we're trying to implement regardless of where our kids are in school so that they can be adaptable and ready for a future work environment that's going to change rapidly."
It's the same philosophy used to develop the Parkview Education Center, Stockman added. That initiative moved health science programs from the Career Academy this school year to 1919 W. Cook Road in a partnership with Parkview Health and Ivy Tech Community College. It exposes health science students to others in the field.
"Even though the students aren't necessarily directly interacting with the community college and Parkview, it is in the same environment so they do have some interaction and we do have access to other experts nearby when and if we need them," Stockman said.
Cross Street Partners, a Baltimore firm, is partnering with two Indiana developers on the Electric Works project: Decatur firm Biggs Development, headed by Kevan Biggs, and Indianapolis firm Greenstreet Limited. Plans for the first phase, which would transform the buildings west of Broadway, will cost $214 million.
The overall vision of Electric Works has a district that would provide a hub of innovation, entrepreneurialism, education and research.
Indiana Tech announced in December it intends to lease a portion of the site, which includes plans for residential, retail, office and education space. The school will rent 10,000 square feet on the west side of the campus. Officials said they are exploring options for how to use the space.
Education is a huge component of Electric Works, which would allow for a "holistic, comprehensive experience," for students in the FWCS program, Erb said. In addition to school "they're going to be exposed to STEAM curriculum that can be real-world based experiential that's a really exciting model that we've seen in other parts of the country."
Jeff Kingsbury, managing principal with Greenstreet Limited, said planners will begin exploring what the FWCS school would look like.
"In many respects this is going to be a new model for education and how we connect students to mentors, innovators and entrepreneurs," he said. "So we have time to figure that out. But in many respects we are going to be creating some new pathways for learning and student engagement."
Funding for FWCS' program is "the big piece," and has yet to be determined, Stockman said. Partnerships, such as that created for the Parkview Education Center, are being explored, she added.
Although the planning for the Electric Works program started before the state approved new graduation requirements that include making students meet workforce-related goals as well as college-prep ones, Stockman said, "we think this aligns nicely with making sure that students have rigorous options so that they can be prepared to take on the world."
STEAM school goals
According to a letter of intent, the goals of the proposed Fort Wayne Community Schools STEAM program are to:
• Respond to the region and state’s demands for a better educated and equipped workforce, by offering a blended learning curriculum, grounded in project-based instructional strategies.
• Fulfill new Indiana graduation pathway requirements by providing students with project-based, service-based and work-based learning experiences by locating the school in a walkable, mixed-use innovation district.
• Create partnerships and immersive learning opportunities for students to interact with entrepreneurs and innovators.
• Provide an educational experience that attracts and retains high-ability children from across the region.
• Leverage the expertise and experience of FWCS in developing award-winning and nationally-recognized programs of study.
• Create a national model of education and industry partnership.