NORTH FULTON, Ga. – As a new high school emerges from the rubble where old Milton High School once stood, Fulton School officials are now focusing on the student experience in the area’s most innovative high school.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) high school is on track to open in August 2020 in downtown Alpharetta with an initial class of 400 freshman; a second STEM high school will open the following year in South Fulton.

While the STEM high school will meet all state requirements for graduation, the curriculum puts students on a career pathway to high-demand, high-paying jobs in information technology, health care sciences and engineering, Fulton School officials say.

The overall curriculum will center on “design thinking” and is being developed by staff with external partners, including Georgia Tech’s Center for Education, Integrating math, science and computing. 

“This partnership has helped us create STEM instructional units such as ‘Thwarting the Next Pandemic’,” said Susan Hale, a spokeswoman for Fulton Schools. “This unit uses design thinking to teach students not only relevant content but also allows them exposure to 3-D printing in a culminating pandemic design solution.”

 

Hale explained design thinking is a problem-solving process where students will “define the problem, research problem elements, ideate, prototype, choose a solution, implement the solution, and learn from the process.”

This month Fulton Schools staff will visit Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta to observe the school’s Mount Vernon Institute of Innovation – considered the leading design thinking K-12 school in the nation.

According to the school’s website, the DT program was developed in 2014 through collaboration with Stanford University, credited with creating this new approach to learning.

Fulton Schools is also recruiting “Signature Partners” for the STEM high school, similar to business partners in all system schools, but with a more targeted role.

The partnerships will focus on three aspects: student impact, teacher impact and facility impact. Student impact could include job shadowing, internships and mentorship; teacher impact could include shadowing and externship experience in the summer, grant funding or staff development sponsorships. 

 “As for facility impact, a company could contribute by donating equipment, software or other enhancements, and help design a modern workplace environment. Signature Partners also would have branding opportunities,” Hale said. 

Conversations with the community will likely begin early next year when the overall marketing campaign for the STEM high school kicks off. The 9th grade curriculum will be complete at that time so students, parents and potential teachers can understand what differentiates the school, Hale said.

Enrollment in the STEM campus will be by application, so there are no specific attendance zones. Hale said it is intended for North Fulton students, since a similar school is planned for South Fulton. 

The nearly $60 million STEM campus is being built with proceeds from the one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax renewed by voters in 2017. 

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.

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