Elolf Elementary to Become Tech-Based STEAM ‘Magnet School’

The K-5 elementary school will start the 2021-22 school year as Elolf STEAM Academy, the first tech-based magnet school and a potential feeder program in San Antonio's Judson Independent School District.

(TNS) — Elolf Elementary School will open the 2021-22 school year as Elolf STEAM Academy, the first tech-based magnet school in the Judson school district.

Principal Scott Wilson held three consecutive informational Zoom meetings April 27-29 with parents interested in finding out more about the STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics — Academy's curriculum, goals and attendance.

"I would say it will be more of a magnet school, a full campus-wide K-5 school for the first year," Wilson said prior to the Zoom meeting. Current Elolf attendance sits at about 520 in a building originally built to comfortably handle up to 800 students, he said. "So I'm looking to gain 150-200 kids ... for enrollment of between 725-750 students to fill out the program."

Signup for the Academy began May 3 and runs through May 28 for all grandfathered Elolf students and about 150-200 more students from other elementaries in the district. Wilson told the April 28 Zoom meeting participants the Academy has already enrolled 50 students, 42 of which currently are non-Elolf attendees.

The Academy would use Project Lead The Way curriculum to drive the program, which has been in the works since a spring 2020 chat with Superintendent Jeanette Ball "about doing something different" with educational offering.

"She had expressed to me her desire to have some specialty campuses," Wilson recalled. "I already had something on a smaller scale happening on my campus, with miniGEMS (a camp to introduce Girls to Engineering, Math and Science, or GEMS).

"So I was telling her I would like to do something on a larger scale," he said, "and those conversations just kept developing."

Wilson said Elolf would become more of a magnet school, a full campus-wide model, K-5, in its first year.

"All of my teachers have already been trained, they are already trying to prototype some of the modules this year," he said. "Anybody from here on out that would come into the organization is going to be vetted differently, with the idea that we want people that are STEAM-acclimated."

He described the Project Lead The Way curriculum as "an activity project problem-based approach to education. They have modules they have created that come with the curriculum."

From robotic kits to coding software, the Academy will teach students to use a different skills sets, to become more collaborative and problem-solvers.

"What we are proposing and trying to install is a cross-curricular, vertical, horizontal alignment among all teachers," he said. "Everybody is going to be working from a project-based learning mindset. Whenever they are planning, they need to be thinking, 'How can I turn this into some kind of a project? How can I integrate technology and science and everything, into this?'"

He said he hopes the STEAM Academy becomes a feeder program for the district's already-established JSTEM and JECA programs at the middle and high school levels.

"I want to create a situation," he said, "where kids have (problem-solving) skills and can work with others; where they are having to use different skill sets ... and become more collaborative, more outside-the-box thinkers."

One caveat is transportation, as parents and guardians of STEAM Academy will be responsible for the daily drop-off and pick-up of children. But with the Elolf neighborhood expected to supply three-quarters of the school's initial attendees, the burden will fall on those from outside the current Elolf attendance zone, and from outside the Judson ISD boundaries.

Wilson said Judson will consider transfers into the district from other districts or charter schools, as the STEAM Academy is the first of its kind in the San Antonio area.

Anyone interested in the STEAM Academy's offer can contact Wilson and Elolf at: www.judsonisd.org/Elolf.

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