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Springfield's Global Stem Academy put on hold by state

A state agency charged with overseeing the development and construction of public schools, is trying to halt the opening of Springfield's Global Stem Impact Academy, which is to be located in the old Springfield South High School.

Springfield school officials are planning to fight to keep the project alive. The Stem Academy is a project developed by State Sen. Chris Widener to train students in the bio-agricultural science field. Sources say it would cost between $6 and $9 million dollars to renovate a portion of the old Springfield South High School.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission will oversee that money and recently they released a report questioning the viability of the Stem Academy.

They estimate that it would cost closer to $23 million dollars to complete renovations and question the number of students who would attend.

Springfield's Superintendent of Schools, Dr. David Estrop, says the project has $4 million in local money committed to advance the project and the need for the Academy has already been established. He says Ohio State University and large companies like Battelle support the effort.

"If there isn't a need why would Steve Davis, the CEO of Bob Evans, throw his personal support and the support of his company behind this effort? They are going to open their New Albany research labs for internships for our students," Estrop said. Steve has already put that on the table. We went up and talked to Smuckers on Orville, Ohio. And what Tim Smucker told Sen. Widener was, 'we can't find people to work for us.'" A food scientist with a BA degree, no experience, will start at Smuckers at $64,000 a year plus benefits."

Estrop says that it's not the Facility Commission's job to derail viable educational opportunities for area students. And he's baffled why the state agency would step in at this point to throw up a roadblock to prevent the Academy from opening.

"I want our students here in Springfield and Clark County and in this region to be in line for those jobs," Estrop said.

The Academy was set to open in the fall, but that date has been pushed back until the red tape with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission can be sorted out.