Students at Brick Township High School and Brick Memorial High School will have two options to enrich their high school experience starting in the 2016-17 school year.
The Board of Education approved the creation of two “academies,” specialized programs that will exist within the two schools – one which focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and another focusing on business and finance.
“I think it is exciting for our district to enter this area,” said Interim Superintendent Richard Caldes, calling the academies a “prescribed course of study.”
“This way, students, when they come in from eighth grade, have a framework of where they want to go,” he added.
The STEM program will offer coursework including robotics and a full CAD development lab, Caldes said.
Each academy will host 24 students, per school, and begin when a freshman enters from 8th grade. Students will need to apply for the programs and likely take an entrance exam, though the full requirements to participate in the program have not yet been promulgated by district officials.
“I’m glad to see this board and this interim superintendent taking the bull by the horns to move in this direction, because when [students] graduate, that’s where the jobs are going to be,” said resident Larry Reid.
The idea to begin academies was championed by former board member Walter Campbell, a retired high school science teacher. Campbell also spearheaded a project to create STEM classrooms at the high schools, which have since been constructed.
“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m sorry that Mr. Campbell isn’t here to see this,” said board member Sharon Cantillo.
Campbell, a regular at board meetings, did not attend Thursday’s.
“This is a great day for Brick Township,” she said.
“The time is right, now, to go forward with this,” said Caldes. “We’re very vested in the idea that this is a great thing for our kids.”
Caldes said the two academy programs would incorporate internships and be collaborative with local colleges. Caldes said Georgian Court University, NJIT and Monmouth University are all potential partners. If the STEM and finance programs are successful, the district would be open to creating additional academies, such as an Allied Health program.
Caldes said the district often loses its most talented students to county-run academies, such as MATES. Creating the district’s own academies would keep Brick Township students within the district and open up specialized programs to even more students. Now that the academies have been approved by the Board of Education, officials can begin looking at which teachers will be assigned to academy classes and developing a curriculum. Teachers in the STEM program must be certified in technology education, and finance academy teachers will need to be certified in one of about a dozen areas to meet state requirements.
“We want to have the best people in these programs,” said Caldes.
The Board of Education also voted on Thursday night to add American sign language classes to both high schools beginning in 2016-17.