With a desire to provide her daughter and other children with a quality education, longtime educator Anetrise Jones is launching a private school this fall with an emphasis on science and technology.
The school -- Elite Scholars STEAM Academy -- will be located in Fairview Heights. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, agriculture/arts and mathematics.
The academy will operate under parent company Growing Scholars, which Jones, 44, has operated for the last six years in Fairview Heights. Growing Scholars serves approximately 130 kindergarten through 12th-grade students with tutoring, after-school programs and summer camps.
The STEAM Academy will serve pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students. However, during its first year of operation, Jones said the school will just serve pre-kindergarten through third grade.
The school will have an open house for perspective students and their families from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the academy, which will be located at the same facility as Growing Scholars -- 6322 Old Collinsville Road in Fairview Heights.
"Everything will be project-based learning -- when you take a concept to a complete circle," Jones said. "Everything that's taught within our school will have an essential question that we will start with and from that essential question we will tie it to some STEAM career."
The school will still do the traditional form of teaching students reading, writing and English, she said, but everything beyond that will be hands-on learning.
Jones' 7-year-old daughter will attend the STEAM Academy this fall, which will operate under the non-profit organization Elite Scholars. Jones and her husband, Jeffrey, also have a 17-year-old son who attends a private school in Missouri.
"My daughter is very bright. She loves to learn. She likes to do more than reading, writing and math all day. She does enjoy science classes and art and really getting into drama and theater," Jones said. "Instead of traveling to Missouri to take her to a school that will meet her needs, we decided maybe it was time to open our school so we can put all of our resources into our own community."
She encouraged parents of "very bright, active, inquisitive, creative" children to consider the STEAM Academy. Jones said students must be able to work at a fast pace and at a high level as the curriculum is taught at one grade level above. The admission process at the STEAM Academy includes a readiness assessment test.
Jones estimated the student-to-teacher ratio will be 12 to 1. The first day of school at the STEAM Academy is slated to be Aug. 19 with the school day running from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuition is $6,500 per student annually, and a hot lunch for students will be catered in at a cost to be determined.
Jones said extended education will be offered from 3-4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, which will include agriculture activities, financial literacy, drama and dance.
The academy will not have traditional physical education, art or music classes, but will offer those disciplines in unique ways. A professional musician will provide music lessons to students including violin, guitar and piano, and a professional artist will teach students about art, Jones said.
Parents on board
Parent Brianne LeRoy's 5-year-old daughter, Samantha, will be attending kindergarten this fall at the STEAM Academy.
"I was really looking for a private school that will offer her the opportunity to think outside the box," said Brianne LeRoy, of Belleville.
While on maternity leave, LeRoy researched and visited private and parochial schools throughout the metro-east.
"A lot of them weren't offering the innovative piece," she said. Samantha enjoys hands-on activities and helping her father Dorian LeRoy, an engineer, fix things.
Brianne LeRoy was impressed with the STEAM curriculum. "It's a really good fit," she said, "and definitely where our society is going."
Samantha is currently in the Growing Scholars summer camp to become familiar with the school atmosphere and some of the staff members.
"I'm really excited about the school," Brianne LeRoy said. "I think it's a great addition to the community."
Parent Tia Smith of Belleville said her 4-year-old son Kole will be in the pre-kindergarten program at the STEAM Academy.
"What attracted me to Elite Scholars was the focus on STEAM. You don't find a school that particularly addresses those areas in this area," said Smith, who has three other children as well. "All of our kids are very smart, and we just didn't want our son -- the youngest -- to lack in any areas of education. We want nothing but the best for our kids and that's why we chose Elite Scholars."
Smith has seen academic progress since Kole started the summer camp at Growing Scholars last month. "I'm already seeing the growth especially in the phonics piece," Smith said.
Jones plans to apply to the state for accreditation once the STEAM Academy has been in operation for one year, per state rules.
Jones has worked in education for more than 20 years. "I've done everything imaginable in school districts," she said.
Jones has a master's degree in education from Webster University and a bachelor's degree from Harris Stowe State University.
When she started college at the University of Arkansas, she had planned to go into nursing. However while waiting for her clinicals in nursing to start, Jones took a class in teaching at Harris Stowe for summer.
"I fell in love with it," she said. "I know this is what I'm destined to do."
STEAM School will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at 6322 Old Collinsville Road, Fairview Heights.
For more information about the STEAM Academy or to RSVP for the open house, call 628-4769 or visit http://www.ess.academy. The academy also has a Facebook page, EliteScholarsSTEAM, and presence on Twitter, @EScholarsSTEAM..