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New year-round high school with medical focus to open next fall for Portage County students

By admin Published: September 21, 2011

ROOTSTOWN TWP.: The aspiring doctors and pharmacists at Northeast Ohio Medical University will share their Rootstown Township campus next year with high school freshmen attending the Bio-Med Science Academy the first school of its kind in Ohio.

The academy will be a charter school sponsored by the Rootstown school district and hosted on the university campus, which is across the street from Rootstown High School. The Rootstown school board approved resolutions Monday authorizing the creation of the school, and educators met for a four-hour retreat Tuesday afternoon at the university to learn more about it.

The new school will teach the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines with an additional 'M' for medicine.

Students will be admitted by lottery, not prior academic achievement. The first class will be 60, and each year a new freshman class will be added until the school reaches its full four-year enrollment.

The new school also will be year-round, with trimesters. Students will get breaks throughout the school year, but no single, long break during the summer. They will have the opportunity to work in the university's laboratories and collaborate with college students on projects involving science and health-care issues.

The Bio-Med Science Academy will join a statewide network of 11 STEM schools that includes Akron's National Inventors Hall of Fame middle school.

The network includes two virtual schools for students in rural areas of Southeast and Northwest Ohio that are expected to come online next year.

The academy will draw students from all over Portage County, ''which we believe would make us the only STEM school in Ohio that would be focusing on rural school districts as opposed to urban,'' said John Wray, the university's vice president of administration and finance.

Columbus-based Battelle, a multinational independent research and development firm, operates the network.

Battelle made an initial $2.8 million investment, along with a $12 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to start the network, which gives grants to STEM schools and shares knowledge from each school's experience to help start other STEM schools.

Eric Fingerhut, who stepped down as chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents last March, is Battelle's vice president for education and STEM learning. He said the Rootstown school won't simply be aligned with a university, it will be part of it.

''They'll be going to school together with the med students,'' Fingerhut said. ''This integration with the medical school is unique, and I think very, very exciting.''

Wray said the university will make room next fall for the incoming freshmen.

''Right now we're going to incorporate the STEM school within the confines of the university and carve out some classroom space right here within our existing buildings,'' Wray said. The university is building a new health and wellness complex, which will include the STEM school.

''We will actually build a permanent home for the STEM school in a newly constructed facility, hopefully as early as 2013,'' Wray said.

The school is the brainchild of Rootstown High teacher Stephanie Lammlein, a biology teacher with 15 years of experience. She and Wray began talking last November and soon they were having lunch with Rootstown Superintendent Andrew Hawkins.

The STEM teaching philosophy emphasizes teaching rigorous content by engaging students with real-world problems that make the math and science meaningful.

Lammlein will lead the development and planning of the new school. The lottery for students probably will take place in the spring after a staff is hired.

Although the school will be publicly funded like all charter schools, it will require private financing as well, especially to pay for the extended class time.

Lammlein expects the school year to be extended by 22 days for students and 28 days for teachers, who will need additional time for training and planning at the end of each trimester.

''We are going to be completely dependent on partners with business,'' Lammlein said.

Organizers are still working on how to pay for the school.

''We are in the initial stages of reaching out to corporations in the science, technology, engineering, and medicine fields to find partners who are interested in serving as project mentors, providing seminars and special lectures, providing equipment and providing financial support, '' said Kathleen Ruff, the university's vice president of external affairs.

John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or Read the education blog at



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