GROTON — With the replacement of roofs and floors under way at its elementary school, the Groton School District is taking its first steps toward transforming the way the district teaches its students.
The work at the elementary school is just the first phase of an $8.7 million capital project voters approved last fall. Superintendent Margo Martin said the classrooms should be ready come fall when students return, although weather has not been very cooperative for roofing.
The more transformative plan for the district will begin next summer and renovate the sixth-grade wing of the junior/senior high school into science, technology, engineering and mathematics classrooms. If they want to embark in a more focused line of study, students will have the option to enroll in four areas of study for half a day, Martin said: engineering, graphic design or communications media, the building trades or computer science.
“The idea is that kids will be exposed to different opportunities and occupations that they can get enrolled in out of high school,” Martin said, paving the way to a post-school job, an associate’s or bachelor’s degrees.
“And maybe in that career readiness it means you have to go to college for four years, maybe it means being an apprentice and working with a union as an electrician,” she said. “We’re letting kids know there’s lots of pathways to take to be career ready.”
Martin said she got the idea when working as a principal at a school in Tioga County she saw the disparity of options available to students in rich versus poor districts.
“I firmly believe Groton students deserve opportunity,” she said. “Regardless of where you live, it should not restrict what you’re exposed to.”
The new options of classes for students will qualify the district to be a satellite STEM academy for the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES, which Jeffrey Matteson, TST BOCES district superintendent says will provide another option for students.
Groton will offer different courses than what are currently available at the Ithaca BOCES campus, said Matteson.
“Additional science, technology, engineering and math subjects are in demand and not all students in all schools have the same programs available to them,” Matteson said. “So opening up to allow more opportunities for all kids is a great thing to be doing.”
He added the Ithaca campus of BOCES has no space to expand course offerings.
The $8.7 million project carries no tax levy increase to district property owners. The district plans use of fund balance to cover the project’s local share. State aid covered roughly 82 percent of the cost.