Russellville Independent Schools is hoping to make personalized learning and the latest technology the centerpiece of its new 21st Century Center.
Workers are renovating a 33,000-square-foot regional technology center next to the district’s junior and senior high school. The recent opening of the new Logan County Area Technology Center freed up space at the building.
The newly renovated space will include a sixth-grade academy, a cafe-style space for high school seniors and an academy for science, technology, engineering, art and math, or STEAM academy.
Assistant Superintendent Steven Moats said the center will provide “additional time and enrichment activities for students” through the STEAM academy.
He said the space was inspired by Warren County Public Schools’ 212 Academy. The goal, he said, is to help students discover if they have an interest in STEAM early on.
The space for high school seniors will offer an opportunity to experience transitioning to adulthood in a coffee house-like environment. New graduation requirements in the district are promoting student internships and end-of-year senior exhibitions, Moats said.
The sixth-grade academy is the closest to completion. Officials expect the classroom space to be ready by the start of school next year, and an open house is planned for August.
The front of the building will house the sixth-grade academy, which features a multipurpose space and commons area with a more modern decor, TVs and nontraditional seating. The space allows for collaboration, according to district instructional coach Cassie Reding, who’s overseeing the academy.
The academy will also pair traditional teaching with an online program provided by Summit Learning and Chromebooks for each student. Reding said the program helps kids develop cognitive skills, content knowledge, habits of success and a sense of purpose in their education.
Reding stressed that the program isn’t intended to keep students on computers all day but to further personalize the learning they receive. The district wants to take the model and expand it to other grades, she said.
“Our main focus is to provide a personalized learning experience for our students to meet each of their individual needs,” Reding said.
Each of the academy’s three classrooms will feature a 70-inch interactive screen, and the total classroom space equals 1,353 square feet. Standing tables and movable desks will give the classrooms a novel feel.
“The learning environment itself is going to be very modern, 21st century,” Reding said.