Ground breaking: Global Impact STEM Academy's $16.9 million expansion gets underway

Global Impact STEM Academy’s recent groundbreaking for its new Upper Academy facility will give older students new laboratories and easy access to Clark State College’s campus while also providing space at the school’s current location to admit more students – including sixth graders for the very first time.

“We want to make sure we can serve as many kids as want to come here,” says Joshua Jennings, superintendent and founding director of GISA.

The $16.9 million expansion project broke ground in December and is expected to finish by July 2025. Grades 10-12 are projected to move into the building, located along Leffel Lane on Clark State College’s campus, for the start of the school year beginning that fall.

Grades 7-9 will remain at the school’s current location in the Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome, at 700 S. Limestone St., while adding a new class of sixth-grade students.

The single-story Upper Academy facility will be approximately 30,000 square feet and will include several laboratories, offices, a dual-purpose cafeteria, and other spaces. Traditional classroom space will be offered in Clark State’s current buildings, where many GISA students already attend classes for college credit.

The school currently has an enrollment of almost 700 students, accepting 125 students each year for its new seventh-grade class, Jennings says. With the new facility, the school would like to grow to 180 students per grade.

During the school’s recent lottery for new seventh-grade students, there were 190 applicants for the 125 spots, Jennings says, and additional students also tend to inquire about applying after the lottery is completed. With additional slots, the school also can connect with and capture additional segments of the population that might be interested in the school. Students currently come from Clark and four surrounding counties.

Global Impact STEM Academy's $16.9 million expansion project broke ground for its new Upper Academy facility in December and is expected to finish by July 2025.Moving the older grades to the new facility makes sense because those grades tend to have a schedule and calendar that is more aligned already with Clark State, Jennings says. It also will be easier for those students to attend College Credit Plus courses on campus, which allows them to earn college credits while in high school.

“It’s still kind of a logistical barrier for some of our kids,” Jennings says about the difficulties some students currently face in finding transportation to the college campus.

GISA students who aren’t enrolled in these college courses also will find benefits, he says, such as access to credentialing programs offered at Clark State.

Those who pass by the location of the new facility may see only flags, stakes, and a construction trailer at the site now, but more tangible changes will begin to appear as weather permits, Jennings says. The expansion price tag includes not only the building but also preconstruction services, design, furnishings, and technology.

GISA opened more than a decade ago, welcoming its first class of students in the 2013-2014 school year. The public school has a focus on biosciences, food, agriculture, environmental studies, and other related careers. It also recently began a niche curriculum in aerospace and aviation technology as well.

About 20 sophomores have had the opportunity to enroll in a class about the fundamentals of unmanned aircraft systems, and upon completion, they will be licensed to fly drones commercially. Additional aerospace and aviation technology classes are likely to follow, Jennings says.

Like the college where GISA will have its new facility, the school is responsive to the industry and workforce needs throughout the region. But the skills that students learn at Global Impact can be used far beyond, in a variety of fields and jobs.

Global Impact STEM Academy's $16.9 million expansion project broke ground for its new Upper Academy facility in December and is expected to finish by July 2025.“Those skill sets are transferable to a multitude of industry sectors,” Jennings says.

There is interest in the community to offer a STEM education in lower grades, Jennings says. Expanding the school to include sixth grade is a step toward meeting that demand.

Career exploration often is not considered until students grow older, but younger students benefit from age-appropriate exposure and exploration as they learn more about their aptitudes and passions, Jennings says.

“They’re developing that all along the way,” he says.

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Read more articles by Diane Erwin.

Diane Erwin is a freelance writer and former reporter for the Springfield News-Sun. A graduate of Ohio State University, her articles have appeared in a number of publications in Springfield and Dayton. In addition to her journalism background, she has worked in marketing and written copy for businesses throughout the country. In her spare time, she likes to read, dream about Schuler’s donuts, and travel near and far with her husband and two children.