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Hall County School Board considers new North Hall Middle School academy

POSTED: March 26, 2013 12:38 a.m.

Advanced students who are interested in science, technology and mathematics at North Hall Middle School may get the opportunity to further explore those passions in the next school year.

The Hall County School Board voted Monday evening to approve the continued study and development of the Earhart-Edison Exploration Academy at North Hall Middle School.

The academy would be a school within a school, similar to the Da Vinci Academy at South Hall Middle School.

The Da Vinci Academy provides gifted students with an opportunity to pursue their interests in creativity and science. The academy has a museum in which students display their work and research with a museum-quality exhibit.

Sally Krisel, director of innovative and advanced programs of the Hall County School District, said the idea for a specialized academy at North Hall has been in the incubator for a number of years.

At this point, North Hall teachers and county administrators are still developing and brainstorming the idea of starting a science, technology, engineering and math academy at the middle school level that would complement the STEM magnet school the system plans to open this fall at North Hall High School.

The academy would emphasize science, math and problem-solving while also committing to creating societal problem-solvers with an emphasis on community.

The name of the academy, though not set in stone, is thought to exemplify the spirit of courageous exploration that the school wants to impart.

While the North Hall academy may be set up similarly to Da Vinci Academy, its focus and goals would be unique.

“Early on we began to look at whether or not we should replicate Da Vinci at the north end and finally decided that it was too organic,” Krisel said. “We did not think we could do a cookie-cutter replication. But with the work that has gone into the North Hall High School, I think that has provided us with sort of a lighthouse. “

She said the desire of the specialized program would be to prepare younger students for success at the high school level but to not limit young minds to just the STEM approach, rather to use it as a guide making sure students “are getting those magical things that help them discover and polish their interest.”

Laurie Ecke, assistant to the director of advanced and innovative programs of the Hall County School District, said the timeline includes piloting the program with 50 or more students in the upcoming school year. The students would have to apply to be a part of the program and then must be accepted based on academic achievement and other factors. The following year, the program could be opened to both 6th- and 7th-grade students.

Ecke said the main thing to keep in mind is the end goal.

“Students who finished after three years at the Earhart-Edison Exploration Academy would have this rich STEM middle school curriculum that would certainly prepare them for school at North Hall High School,” Ecke said. “But many of them may choose to do something else at North Hall High School or any of our other great high schools, but they would still have that enrichment from STEM learning that would be key to all people as they go on into whatever fields they might venture into.”

Superintendent Will Schofield said the timing for the academy is “natural.”

The timing of the academy coincides with the STEM designation that will be put on North Hall High School diplomas in three years. Upcoming 9th-graders in three years would have the advantage of the middle school STEM experience as they begin the high-level curriculum.

Schofield said the academy will provide an opportunity for young people to learn to be innovative and successful in today’s world.

“The timing is right,” Schofield said. “What the museum is to Da Vinci, the laboratory will be for the Earhart-Edison Middle School experience. These will be kids that are creating apps and doing experiments and (filing) patents. They’ll really get an opportunity to dabble, if you will, in the STEM areas.”


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