MONROE – Leaders with Union County Public Schools will discuss next month the possibility of expanding the Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle School concept to elementary and high schools.
Superintendent Andrew Houlihan told the school board’s curriculum committee April 18 that he wants to expand the concept to Walter Bickett and East Elementary schools, as well as Monroe High School, in fall 2020.
“The program has been very well received by the larger community,” Houlihan said. “It’s a phenomenal partnership with Atrium Health and is really engaging our students in real-world problem-based learning around the health sciences to prepare them for colleges and careers in that interest.”
The curriculum committee voted to take the proposal to the full board in May. Approval would give the district a unique health sciences feeder pattern from kindergarten to 12th grade, Houlihan said.
Houlihan said the high school academy would directly connect to South Piedmont Community College, Wingate University and Atrium Health.
“The goal with this is to eventually have our students come out of Monroe High School’s Health Sciences Academy prepared on day one for a college career of their choice in health sciences and hopefully with a two-year associate degree,” Houlihan said.
He said Atrium Health has agreed in principle to fund a STEM specialist for the high school similar to what’s at the middle school. East and Walter Bickett would share an additional STEM specialist.
School board member Gary Sides asked Houlihan if the district had a feeling about how much student capacity would be needed for the high school program.
“I want to make sure that we’re able to accommodate each student that meets whatever the criteria may be, as well as the interest level, to slide into that academy,” Sides said. “I don’t want to have another lottery where we have to turn our students away that have interest.”
Houlihan said Monroe High School will have increased capacity due to bond projects, but he believes the program will be able to accommodate students from across the district interested in enrolling in the program. After all, Monroe High is a school of choice. He said the program would be run like other career-technical education academies.
Sides also wants to ensure the district transports any students who qualify and have a desire to attend the academy that need transportation.
Houlihan told Sides that the benefit of discussing the expansion now is that it gives the district time to gauge interest, as well as market and recruit. Houlihan also wants to do a quality job with staffing and curriculum alignment.
Schools intend to send surveys out to families to gauge interest in the programs.