Try to imagine a public school with no rules when the students arrive for classes. No school colors or mascot. And the first few days they spend time out of the classroom touring the surrounding community. Those are a few of the reasons the sign outside STEAM Academy calls it "the most innovative school in Kentucky."
On Wednesday, August 14, 150 freshmen students will arrive at the old Johnson Elementary School for the first day of classes. The school has been refurbished as the home of the new STEAM Academy. Each student was chosen through a lottery. There were no entrance requirements. The students will help come up with school rules, school colors and mascot. They will help set the pace of their classes.
STEAM Academy math teacher Maria Shockey says "students are going to be in charge of their learning, they are going to know what they need to cover. We're going to provide that opportunity for them. They are going to be in charge. They're going to set their own pace. We're going to keep moving them along."
Director of STEAM Academy Tina Stephenson says part of making the school unique is it's partnership with U-K.
"So we're going to have about ten TA's , and do a book study. We will do field trips, and some learning at the UK campus. We will be on their campus, and they'll be on our campus."
Stevenson says the school will feel more like a mini-college than a traditional public high school. Students will be trusted from the start with making this "their" school.
Wils Quinn, a new Freshman at STEAM Academy, really likes how much say he and other students will have about the makeup of their school. "You know your voice is going to get heard because at a school of 5,000 people, that's been there already a long time, it's hard to make changes. And this, we are not just making changes, we're building it."
Part of the student's orientation to STEAM Academy will be a tour of the surrounding neighborhood. They'll meet business owners and residents to understand some of the history, culture, and changes around the old Johnson Elementary School. It's located on Sixth Street, and was built in 1939.
Stevenson says she and her staff are very excited about making educational history in Kentucky, and giving the students the tools they need to succeed. "I have a phenomenal staff. We are so ready. Everyone is on board. And our mission is to do whatever it takes to help our students be successful. We are servant leaders, and we understand that."