Vance County Schools has received preliminary approval from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to establish a STEAM Academy, as part of a restart school strategy, at E.M. Rollins Elementary School.
The school system submitted a restart school application for E.M. Rollins to the state department in March. The restart school process is a new initiative offered by the state in which public school systems can apply to have a school operate under regulations more like those followed by public charter schools. A “restart” school must have been low performing for two of the last three years.
E.M. Rollins Elementary is one of only five schools approved by the state as a restart school. The restart school application was submitted by Dr. Cindy Bennett, assistant superintendent for Student Services.
“This is an exciting time for Vance County Schools and especially, E. M. Rollins,” Bennett said. “Students will be offered an amazing educational experience in a STEAM school with opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering, math as well as participate in an arts program. This school will offer high quality instruction using instructional models that will be supportive of students at any place on the educational spectrum.”
The 2016-2017 school year will be a transition year at E.M. Rollins with the school set to become a full-fledged STEAM school at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. The STEAM designation means the school will focus on a curriculum involving science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
New Principal Stephanie Alston and her current staff will lead the transition.
The restart school application calls for E.M. Rollins to become a kindergarten through fifth-grade school of choice. Students may elect to remain at the school or opt out to another elementary school within the district. The school will offer flexibility in its school year calendar and length of the school day. Initial changes will involve extending hours for the school day. Vance County Schools is pleased to welcome Alston, who has the skill set to lead this innovative and project-based learning environment.
This innovation will provide licensure flexibility, as there is in charter schools, for the recruitment of staff in science and arts areas needed at the elementary level. The plan also includes flexible funding to allow for enhanced teacher pay to accommodate longer hours and extra duties.
Future plans also call for the school to transition to a year-round calendar for students and staff. There also will be enhancements to the daily schedule to secure a 90-minute literacy and a 90-minute numeracy block, as well as a 30-minute block for remediation and acceleration for all students.
Staff will be involved in an application process as a means of alignment with the innovation model in the areas of certification, experience and training. Following an analysis of staffing, there will be specialized professional development for staff during the transitional year in 2016-2017.
E.M. Rollins will focus on increasing community engagement in the school; a model that should significantly improve support for students and staff with more school volunteers, community partners and business supporters. This will involve reviving community partnerships through a variety of special programs, mentoring, and a parent resource center. The infusion of STEM and the arts will align with the middle school STEM Early High School and create a K-12 pipeline to the high school STEM academies that allows for and encourages business partnerships and mentorships through project-based learning.