The District 153 school board approved spending approximately $180,000 in Title I funds to add a STEM Lab at Churchill School.
The board expects to receive the money on July 1, the new budget year. The board will hire Creative Learning Systems to install the lab in Churchill’s library.
Following the May 15 vote, Board President Shelly Marks said board members were excited to be offering students a STEM Lab, especially knowing the success of the STEM/CMA lab at James Hart School.
In 2016, District 153 opened a STEM/CMA Lab at Hart. Through a host of computer activities and hands-on creative learning, students work on projects focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics, and creative media arts (CMA).
The Churchill STEM Lab will be a scaled down version of what is at Hart.
The district “is getting to do a whole lot with a little (money), and no local funds,” said District 153 Curriculum Director Kathy Schaeflein. The federal dollars will help update the library and technology, and it will be used to improve the science curriculum for third, fourth and fifth graders.
The Churchill technology curriculum currently offers basics in keyboarding, power point and some computer coding. Two years ago, robotics was added to the curriculum. Schaeflein said all that will be incorporated into the STEM Lab.
Staff will make space for the lab by paring back print books and converting more materials to digital. The STEM Lab will only use a portion of the Churchill library; at Hart, the lab has a designated room.
Schaeflein said the Churchill lab will be a good way to get students ready for more individualized tasks Hart students take on in the STEM/CMA lab. Staff members working on the project are Eileen Darin, the current tech teacher who will now be the STEM teacher, and Patti Callahan, librarian and media specialist.
Title I money comes with restrictions. With this project, District 153 is meeting compliance with the All Students Succeed Act (ESSA), which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.
ESSA lifts restrictions that stipulated Title I monies could only be used for reading and math for at-risk students. Because District 153 is nearing the 40 percent threshold of low-income students, Title I funds can be used for district programs for all children, Schaeflein explained.