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Merrimack Valley

August 6, 2013

Charter school pitched in Andover

Designed for 450 students in grades nine through 12

ANDOVER — A group led by School Committee member David Birnbach is proposing opening a charter school focused on engineering, technology and the digital arts.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced Friday that 10 groups submitted proposals for charter schools in districts across the state.

In Andover, the charter school would focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design and Mathematics, or STEAM as it’s known in education circles. The school would be called ‘STEAM Studio’ and would be for grades nine to 12. It would open in September 2014 starting with ninth-graders only. Over four or five years, it would increase to four grades and 450 students.

A location hasn’t been determined.

Birnbach, who has been pushing for increased technology education in the school district as a four-term member of the School Committee, said in the application dated June 26 that the goal of the new school would be to blend the teaching of science and math with computing and digital arts.

“Our curriculum blends the mind of a scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer and teaches flexible thinking and creative problem solving needed to succeed in today’s global economy,” said the executive summary of the 73-page proposal.

Birnbach sent an email about the proposed school to members of the School Committee last week and met with the assistant superintendent about the proposal.

Supertinendent Marinel McGrath could not be reached for comment.

School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue, on vacation in Maine, said he didn’t know much about the proposal and had only spoken briefly with Birnbach about it.

“Anything he did he did as a private citizen, not as a School Committee member,” Forgue said, adding he thought it was “highly unusual” that a committee member should propose a charter school in his own district.

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