BENTON — Big changes are coming to Fairfield Community Schools.
The schools will be reorganized into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math across disciplines), practical arts and early college schools, with the goal of preparing students for life after high school.
Superintendent Steve Thalheimer told board members Thursday that Fairfield will have to set itself apart from other schools, because students are entering a changing workforce with evolving technology, and the future of school funding remains uncertain.
“We have to make ourselves viable, sustainable and competitive,” Thalheimer said.
The changes would be made across the board — kindergarten through 12th grades and at all four buildings — with implementation beginning for the 2015-16 school year. The focus will shift to an inquiry model — from teachers as of keepers of information to coaches who help students navigate problems and think for themselves.
Benton and New Paris elementary schools will be STEAM schools, with emphasis on literacy, math, inquiry and ethical problem solving. Students will use computers and devices to research and problem solve, and robotics in the classroom and as extra-curriculars.
Millersburg Elementary School will become a practical arts academy, and to alleviate crowding at the high school will house two sections each of seventh and eighth grades. The emphasis will still be on literacy, math and problem solving, but will also incorporate exposure to careers in the community as well as a traditional middle school exploratory experience in grades six through eight.
The junior-senior high school will still offer Core 40 classes, but also encourage students to earn college credits along the way, either through early college or vocational trades, at Fairfield or through the Wawasee Area Career and Technical Cooperative.
Thalheimer told the board he expects concerns and questions from parents and community members on the specifics of what the plan means, but the fundamental principals will stay the same.