This week, Fulton County Schools is celebrating the groundbreaking of two new STEM-focused schools scheduled to open in August 2021. Classified as magnet schools, they’ll be open to students across the district.
The Innovation Academy will be located in downtown Alpharetta at the site of the old Milton High School. In the fall of 2021, the school will welcome 9th and 10th graders and add a grade each year to eventually serve approximately 1,600 high schoolers at full capacity.
The South Fulton STEM School, which has not yet been formally named, will be located in the city of Fairburn, adjacent to Campbell Elementary. The school is designed to accommodate approximately 900 students in grades 6-12.
The principal for the South Fulton STEM School will be announced publicly in two weeks. The application window will open starting in October 2020 and acceptance letters will be disseminated in February 2021.
“It’s going to be a transformational experience,” said Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney yesterday at the South Fulton STEM School groundbreaking ceremony. “We are completely reinventing how we do school with schools such as this and I can’t wait to see the first students walk in the door.”
He also emphasized that Fulton County Schools is rethinking how school is done across the entire district, and that more developments are on the way.
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Several schools in South Fulton have made great strides in implementing STEM-focused curriculum. Evoline C. West Elementary was the first school in the area to be certified as a STEM school by the state. Earlier this year, Banneker High received a STEM certification from AdvancEd.
At the new South Fulton STEM school, students will study high-tech, high-demand, college-and-career focused subjects. Courses will incorporate design thinking with an integrated curriculum. Students will have opportunities to engage with corporate, community and higher education partners, including Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC) to enhance the curriculum.
The school will be 147,000 square feet and built to conserve energy and preserve natural site features. It will include 21 general classrooms, two engineering labs, metal and wood fabrication shops, two information technology labs, three health labs, seven science labs, health simulation labs, music technology and visual arts labs and maker spaces. There will also be a parent and student center, central food court and central career and guidance center.
While there won’t be a large gymnasium or playfields, the school will have a multipurpose space for physical education and a 400-seat auditorium.
“This is all innovative,” said School Board President Linda Bryant. “It’s going to be a really great school.”
The selection process for enrollment in the South Fulton STEM School has not yet been announced. According to the district’s timeline, an FAQ for admission, transportation and extra-curricular activities will be available in December.
Other activities planned for 2020 include: an announcement of the school name and signature academic focus by January; recruitment for lead teachers in February; and information meetings for potential students and families and the announcement of signature partners in April and May.
The Innovation Academy and the South Fulton STEM School are being built through SPLOST, a one-penny education sales tax that funds school construction and improvements. Winter Construction was selected to build the South Fulton school. The company’s portfolio of past projects includes Westlake High.
Elected officials in the cities in South Fulton County are excited about the opportunities that the school will bring. South Fulton Councilmember Catherine Foster Rowell said that the groundbreaking of the new school on the heels of the recent announcement of the CCRPI scores shows that schools are trending in the right direction.
She also remarked that for a long time Westlake has been the magnet for math and science in the area, but that the new school opens up new opportunities for more high schoolers to hone skills that are critical for the 21st century workforce.
“I think it’s a huge asset because it provides access to students across South Fulton County who want to be able to take advantage of a STEM curriculum,” she said. “A lot of parents are excited about it. This is going to position our students to succeed in the future.”
Fairburn Mayor Pro Tem Linda Davis says the new school is big news for the town of just over 16,000 residents.
“It means a lot to the citizens and a lot to the Mayor that Fairburn was chosen as the location for the new South Fulton STEM school,” said Davis. “I’m excited for the possibilities that this school brings. This is going to help us to showcase all of the amenities that Fairburn has to offer to citizens of all ages.”
South Fulton County students who are interested in attending one of the new STEM schools can follow the construction progress and other important updates on the Fulton County Schools website. Watch the groundbreaking ceremony of the South Fulton STEM School here.