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Addition of third grade fulfills goal at Springmill STEM Elementary

Amy Matthes, right, and Andrea Murphy are the third-grade teachers at Springmill STEM Elementary.

      The evolution of Springmill STEM Elementary School as a self-contained K-3 building is complete, nearly three and a half years after the board of education gave consensus approval to the move.

      Two third-grade classes, taught by Amy Matthes and Andrea Murphy, are in session this year at Springmill STEM. They join an alignment of two classes each in kindergarten, first and second grades.

      “We are very excited to fulfill our promise to parents to offer a K-3 STEM program,” said Stephen Rizzo, the district’s chief academic officer.

      “Our goal was to start with kindergarten (in 2011) and add a grade with two classes each succeeding year. We have done that successfully.”

      Enrollment in each classroom was limited to 20.

      Rizzo said Springmill’s development was based on the model of the Spanish Immersion School, which opened with a kindergarten class of 11 in 2007 and added a grade each year thereafter.

      Springmill is the only STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school designated by the Ohio Department of Education in Richland County.

      While instruction at each grade level follows the same core curriculum as the district’s other elementary schools, Springmill incorporates scientific inquiry and emphasizes personalized learning and teamwork skills. Students also utilize four science galleries that remain from the building’s development as a learning center.

      “We are certainly glad to have third grade added,” said second-year principal Regina Sackman. “The dedication of parents who allowed their children to be involved in the STEM program here is very much appreciated. These parents have greatly helped our success.”

      Third grade has 28 students, equally divided between the two classrooms. Kindergarten and first grade each have 40 students, split between two classrooms, while second grade has classrooms of 17 and 19 students.

      Sackman attributed the slightly lower enrollment in third grade to the fact that most students were members of the inaugural kindergarten class of about 30 in the fall of 2016.

      “We originally had 32 children enrolled for third grade, but four withdrew when their families moved out of the district,” Sackman said. “I believe third grade next year will be at the capacity of 40 students.”

      Springmill has its own food service cafeteria, where free breakfasts and lunches are served daily. The adjacent large conference room has been divided into two parts, one side for a digital library and art, the other for speech therapy and reading instruction. The gym, where the ropes course and climbing walls have been removed, is used for physical education and indoor recess when necessary.

      Eight pre-kindergarten classrooms also are located at Springmill.

      “We are utilizing our available space to its best use,” Sackman said.

      Matthas, whose 23-year teaching career has been spent entirely in Mansfield City Schools, sought the third-grade position at Springmill.

      “I am excited to learn more about the STEM program,” she said. “I have done a lot of research and found that business and industry executives are looking for the reasoning and technology (skills) that come with STEM.”

      Murphy, who graduated from The Ohio State University in 2016, was one of Sackman’s students when Sackman was an education field placement coordinator/supervisor at OSU-Mansfield. She did her student teaching at Sherman Elementary and worked the last three years as an intervention specialist in Galion.

      Murphy too applied for the Springmill job.

      “I have a soft spot for these kids. I have always loved Mansfield,” she said.

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