Superintendent Polansky’s Vision For Jack Abrams School

Filed under: Around Town,Huntington Union Free School District,News |

Jack Abrams school closed in July 2010 after a divided BOE that represented a divided community voted to close the building. It was a very difficult time for everyone involved.

When Jim Polansky took over as superintendent of the Huntington school, he knew addressing the issue of what to do with the building would need to be addressed in the near future. He was hoping to have some time to build a rapport with the community before he began to address this emotionally charged issue. After a little over a year of building a relationship of trust, he seems ready to begin to move forward.

The plan being considered is to open a STEM Magnet School. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. A magnet school is a public school that exists within a district without the usual attendance zone boundaries. Magnet schools were first created more than 40 years ago and have become popular because they typically offer some sort of specialized instruction or academic program. Magnet schools offer open enrollment geographically, regardless of attendance zones.

Superintendent Polansky has a background in the STEM subjects and he feels passionate about this area of study.

While the details are still very much in the planning stage, he has some ideas of what he would like to see. He anticipates to initially serve 2 grade levels with approximately 25 students at each grade for a total of 50 students. Down the road there is the possibility of the school serving grades 1 – 6.  At the moment he is considering starting with grades 3 and 4 and have the program grow from there.

Enrollment will be entirely optional. He hopes that the program will be so strong that there is a need for a waiting list. Students in District 3 would be given preference and would be eligible to attend for free. If slots remain after in district students enroll, the program would then open to students outside the district. They would be required to pay tuition. He doesn’t envision students being required to take an entrance exam, but rather to have an interest in the STEM curriculum.

While he has not ruled out opening the facility for the 2013/2014 school year, he believes that 2014/2015 would be more realistic. He would not consider starting the program in the middle of a year and when the facility opens, it will be September of a given year.

He intends to be very involved in the planning and will continue to be involved in the day to day operations once the facility is opened. He considers it a benefit that his office is in close proximity of the school.

Funding would come from grants, corporate and private sponsorship.

If the district decides to move forward with the initiative, it would eventually establish “a rigorous, engaging and inquiry-based program,” Superintendent James W. Polansky said. He wants to staff the facility with individuals who feel as passionately as he does about the possibilities. He envisions the environment as one where teachers would be facilitators. It would not be cookie cutter approach. There would be a significant amount of lab experience and doing as opposed to hearing. It would include field experience and labs. Students would be applying the scientific method on a daily basis. The school would use cutting edge technology. Students would still participate in the traditional elementary school subjects.

He has been in close contact with the science curriculum director at the state level and had visited other programs. He has observed examples of STEM programs that he found very appealing and others that did not match his vision for Huntington’s version.

Mr. Polansky does not envision significant changes to the structure of the current school building. The needs would involve working with the existing structure and adding equipment and labs as needed.

If the school district decides to move forward with the plan, there is still much to be done including:

  1. The facility needs to be prepared for STEM.
  2. Teachers and staff need to be trained.
  3. The details of the magnet process need to be confirmed.
  4. Curriculum and resources need to be decided upon and ready to implement.
  5. Cost and funding need to be worked out.
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