New charter school to open fall 2016 in Inver Grove Heights


Discovery Charter School will be located at 4100 66th St. E., in Inver Grove Heights, right off Concord Boulevard. (Hannah Burlingame/Review staff)

Discovery Charter will focus on STEM programming

Inver Grove Heights will be home to a new charter school that administrators say will be one of the first of its kind. 

Discovery Charter School STEM Fuse will open in time for the 2016-2017 school year.

Discussions about forming the new independent public school began two years ago, said Dan Hurley, executive director. He explained that Discovery applied for a start-up grant, which it received from the Minnesota Department of Education for $625,000.

When exploring where to open the school, Hurley said the founders wanted a location that would allow for a diverse student population.

“So they looked at the southern part [of the east metro], looking at Inver Grove Heights, looking at Apple Valley, St. Paul, so this was a central location per se to all of those areas including Woodbury,” Hurley said.

This fall, Discovery will offer kindergarten through fifth grades. The school will add a grade level each successive year until it reaches 12th grade.

An open house is planned on Thursday, April 21, from 5 to 8 p.m. The school is located at 4100 66th St. E., right off Concord Boulevard. The building was once owned by School District 199 and housed the Inver Grove Heights Elementary School.

 

A different kind of school

According to Hurley, Discovery Charter will be one of the first STEM Fuse schools in the state. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) will be incorporated into each lesson. 

Curriculums will be integrated so all subject areas — math, language arts, science, music, art, physical education and social studies — will be interconnected. 

The school’s website states “the goal is for students to learn that all knowledge is interconnected and not separated into individual disciplines. 

Part of this approach will be an emphasis on reading, writing and comprehension skills, and students will start building on engineering skills from the moment they walk through the doors.

“Kindergartners are already starting to learn coding computers, so they can develop. GAME:IT is one of our programs so they are going to learn how to use technology,” Hurley said.

All programs will be technology based. Students will all have electronic tablets, and the classrooms will have Smart Boards. 

Students will be held to Minnesota state standards, and there will be MAP testing. To advance to the next level in the curriculum, kids will have to pass a test.

“In order to keep going on this, you have to master each unit,” Hurley said. “When children get into the school they do an assessment, and then every unit they have to do another assessment to say they have mastered this or they’re just proficient.”

Hurley says the goal is to have students master a subject to move on to the next unit.

When deciding what type of curriculum to have at Discovery, Hurley said the founders and the board wanted something different. 

While the focus of the school will be on technology, Hurley said they also wanted to get students ready to be global citizens.

Hurley predicted students who graduate from Discovery will be ready for life after school. They will be “able to speak STEM language.” 

 

Switching schools

Lisa Pratto said she will be enrolling her three daughters at Discovery Charter School. She said she was looking for alternative schools like charters or private schools near Woodbury and stumbled across Discovery Charter School.

She was seeking a smaller school rather than the large public schools in her neighborhood, and wanted something different for her grade-schoolers. By attending Discovery Charter School STEM Fuse, Pratto’s girls will be immersed in science and technology, something that appealed to her.

“Everyone thinks that girls lose interest in science by sixth grade, but new studies suggest that it is [when they’re] 6 years old! I am hoping that being in a STEM-based school can help combat that,” Pratto said. 

Her daughters love science, so the STEM-based curriculum appealed to them as well.

“Plus, Discover Charter School will eventually grow to K-12, which means my kids can stay together, and in one place, until they are ready to leave for college.”

 

Who can attend?

Enrollment is still open. There are 150 spots for students in kindergarten through fifth grade for the academic year starting in September 2016. Hurley said the maximum class size is 20 students, and there are two sections of each grade.

There will be busing for students who live within a 15- to 20-mile radius of the school.

Once enrollment reaches 150, students will be placed on a waiting list. 

When Discovery Charter becomes a K-12 school, maximum enrollment will be 800 students. 

“Starting off a new school with 800 kids would be too much to handle. You want to build the base and have kids follow through with it,” Hurley explained.

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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