Despite difficult winter conditions, construction crews have made considerable progress on the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at Aurora University (News Bulletin photo)
The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at Aurora University is several steps closer to reality, with all three partner school district boards formally approving the agreement for the initiative.
West Aurora School District 129 and East Aurora School District 131 approved the agreement last night, and Indian Prairie School District 204 approved last week.
A fourth district—Oswego District 308—backed out of the project last month. So the remaining districts and Aurora University went ahead without it.
“This is the moment we have anticipated for several years,” said Aurora University President Rebecca L. Sherrick. ”I speak in behalf of the Aurora University community and our many corporate, nonprofit and civic partners in thanking the East and West Aurora and Indian Prairie school districts for endorsing this powerful new model. We look forward to opening the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School in August of 2014.”
The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School on the Aurora University campus will serve students in third through eighth grades in the West Aurora, East Aurora and Indian Prairie school districts. It will be staffed through a unique professional development strategy that will engage teachers from the partner districts while they complete AU graduate coursework in STEM fields and become leaders in mathematics and science education.
“There are thousands of high-skilled technology jobs in the Aurora region that employers cannot fill because of a lack of qualified employees. The challenge for public education is to educate our students well enough to earn those jobs,” said James Rydland, Superintendent of West Aurora School District 129. “The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School takes on this challenge not only by preparing our community’s talented young learners in ways that will ignite their interest in mathematics and science, but also by developing STEM educators who will cycle this powerful teaching back into the district’s regular classrooms.”
“East Aurora School District 131 looks forward to a long collaboration with Aurora University’s STEM Partnership School, where students will have an opportunity to expand their 21st Century skills and prepare to enter a high-tech workforce,” said East Aurora School District 131 Superintendent Jerome Roberts.
“We are excited to enter into this partnership through Aurora University and look forward to offering this opportunity to our students,” said Kathy Birkett, Indian Prairie School District 204 Superintendent.
Construction of the 30,000 square foot facility began last autumn, and the building will open this August. The curriculum for students has been developed through a unique collaboration between area educators and local corporations, covering the STEM fields as well as art, music and more. The structure itself will serve as a teaching tool, with a green roof, solar panels, a wind turbine, and other elements that will result in LEED Gold certification.
The $12 million construction cost is being funded by donations from corporations and foundations, the state of Illinois and Aurora University. Instructional expenses will be covered by district per-capita budgets, and AU will fund ongoing operational costs.
Each school district will soon begin outreach to parents and students about program logistics, including student selection.
More information about the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at Aurora University is available at http://stem.aurora.edu.
–News Bulletin news sources