Three Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. programs will receive a combined $750,000 from the city through tax increment financing this school year.
The Columbus City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to grant the local school district the funding for three student programs: iGrad, STEM and transition planning for students with disabilities. The funds will be allocated for one year with an option to renew.
The district has received $750,000 in TIF funds for the past three years from the city under an agreement, which requires BCSC to report its progress on an annual basis.
BCSC Superintendent Jim Roberts asked council members Tuesday to consider the district’s request to fund the programs, all of which prepare students for the workforce in a unique way.
The school leader requested $253,825 for iGrad — consistent with the corporation’s previous requests and its average annual contribution to the program. iGrad is an embedded approach used in Bartholomew County middle schools and high schools — both in BCSC and Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. — to achieve a high school graduation rate of 100%.
Roberts said the program identifies students who are most at risk of not graduating and provides them with support through the end of their senior year to successfully complete high school and enter post-secondary education or careers.
Roberts also requested $228,778 for the corporation’s STEM initiatives. He said $72,000 would go to the development of an information technology pathway at Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech High School with a post-secondary partner to be determined. The other $156,778 would go to the development and support of STEM labs in every BCSC elementary school.
Over the last three years, BCSC has used the money allotted to STEM programming to increase the percentage of students obtaining science credits and students enrolled in advanced science courses and increase the representation of special populations in advanced science courses.
The corporation also increased professional development opportunities in the use of physical and curricular materials to enhance content expertise and make science content accessible to all students.
In June, the corporation hosted STEM Camp, a free four-day camp for fifth and sixth graders to engage in hands-on, STEM-focused activities including culinary arts, engineering, computer science and welding. Roberts said 100 students registered and the camp had an average daily attendance of 73 students.
The council also allocated $267,397 to the corporation’s Transition Planning program, which helps identify students with special needs’ strengths, preferences, interests and needed supports to ultimately assist and connect them with employment, community experiences, daily living skills and instruction, among other things.
Since 2015-16, BCSC has increased the number of People Centered Plans to include more students with disabilities by 371% and provided ongoing support to previously trained teachers and initial training to high school special education teachers.
In the future, Roberts said the district will continue to use the funds to provide initial training to new special education teachers at the middle schools, provide ongoing support to previously trained teachers and provide initial training and focused support to Central Middle School’s special education teachers.