Center Grove considers STEM lab

Center Grove is looking to spend about $350,000 on a new lab where students would learn about science, technology, engineering and math.

School board members are considering a plan to convert part of a former maintenance building near the high school into a STEM lab. The goal is for the lab to give students in all grades another way to study math and science lessons that they’ll need to master for careers in engineering and other technical fields, school officials said.

Exactly what students would do in the lab hasn’t been decided. School officials also don’t know what the annual cost would be to run the lab. The school district would pay for the renovations with property tax money that pays for building projects and maintenance, chief financial officer Paul Gabriel said in a memo to school board members and administrators.

Officials presented their ideas for the lab to the school board Thursday night. The board wasn’t asked to approve creating the lab, and no timeline for when it could open was presented.

Center Grove, other local school districts and the Central Nine Career Center already have courses in pre-engineering, medical technology and other subjects intended to prepare students for careers in these fields. In the past year-and-a-half, school officials have raised concerns about how well prepared students are for jobs that will require strong math and science backgrounds and have been reviewing how to provide more STEM-related opportunities for students.

Center Grove would be the first local school district to create a lab exclusively for STEM for students in all grades.

“In the last 18 months, we’ve heard from many parents and community members about their desire for more STEM offerings in Grades kindergarten through 12,” Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said in a news release. “The board has also asked the administration to investigate what the future of STEM could look like in Center Grove. This is the very, very beginning of what could be an exciting new chapter for Center Grove schools.”

Local school and career center officials want students to consider taking more advanced math, science and other technical courses earlier, and schools have been partnering with local businesses to show students more about the careers they can have if they develop strong technical skills.

During the summer, Endress+Hauser in Greenwood hosted an open house for about 300 middle and high school students and their families, so they could learn more about some of the careers available in engineering. Greenwood school officials are talking with area manufacturers and hospitals about forming partnerships that would provide students with internship or job-shadowing opportunities.