School district may launch engineering academy
By Angie Landsverk
The Weyauwega-Fremont School District may add Project Lead the Way to its high school curriculum.
The idea is being proposed by a team that includes Kandi Martin, the district’s pupil services and curriculum director, and several teachers.
“We are proposing this academy in the high school,” she said during the school board’s Nov. 9 Committee of the Whole meeting.
The teachers researching it represent science, technology education and math (STEM) and are interested in receiving the necessary training to be part of what would be an engineering academy.
Joe Gruentzel is the high school’s technology education teacher.
Martin and Gruentzel began talking about the idea six years ago, when both of them joined the W-F School District.
Through grants, the district has already acquired some equipment to support such a program, Martin said.
Project Lead the Way is a nonprofit which provides K-12 STEM programs.
A report regarding the careers W-F graduates pursue shows a number of them are going into engineering – an area missing in the high school curriculum, Martin told the school board.
Both Martin and District Administrator Scott Bleck said the addition of courses related to engineering could draw students to the district.
“If a student had that interest, they could come over here,” he said.
Bleck said Project Lead the Way programs are in various districts in Waupaca County and throughout the state.
If the W-F School District moves forward with the program, it would not take away from the other core areas offered in the high school course catalog, he said.
The district is preparing for the idea by proposing to add three new courses at the high school level.
Those courses are Introduction of Engineering and Design, Principles of Engineering and Aerospace Engineering.
During last week’s meeting, Bleck reminded the board that November and December are the typical months the administration looks for insight from the board regarding additions to the high school course catalog.
In January, students sign up for classes for the 2016-17 school year.
During Committee of the Whole meetings, the board does not take action on agenda items.
The board is expected to vote on the course additions during its Monday, Nov. 23 meeting.
Deciding to become a Project Lead the Way district involves commitment from the teachers.
That is because teachers who want to participate need to be trained.
The training takes place at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, a Project Lead the Way affiliate university, over the course of 10 days in the summer.
Mike Hansen, a science teacher at W-F High School and part of the team studying the idea, said the training is intense.
“It’s a big time commitment,” he said.
Hansen said if the district wants to go this direction, it needs to do so fully or not at all.
“Any time you start anything, it will take time to build it the way you want it to be,” he said.
Board members like the idea.
Deb Bartel said she is always in favor of adding STEM classes, and Doug Ehrenberg said it falls in line with the district looking at needs in the high school.
Kurt Duxbury said engineering is a good theme.
“It goes hand in hand with what jobs are in town,” he said.
If the board is in favor of adding the three new courses, Martin wants to send as many teachers as possible for training.
She said the W-F district may be one of the smaller districts taking on the program, and if students sign up for the first class in January, the district has to be ready in September.
Bleck said future discussions related to the program could involve the middle school level.
“I’m confident in the skill set of our faculty,” he said of bringing Project Lead the Way Engineering to the high school.