Xenia STEAM school plans for drone labs, Makerspace, esports arena

Community Steam Academy-Xenia plans to spend $10 million redoing the former YMCA on East Church Street

Xenia’s soon-to-open STEAM school is planning a $10 million renovation of the old YMCA building on East Church Street to include drone and robotics labs, a rock climbing gym, a Makerspace, and an esports arena.

The project includes $4 million in renovations and a $6 million, 24,000-square-foot expansion. STEAM refers to the often-grouped school disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, while adding the arts.

Rather than individual classrooms, the school’s renovations are primarily based on the “neighborhood system,” founder Dr. Jeremy Ervin said, providing teachers with massive indoor spaces to design how they want, based on the project.

Community Steam Academy-Xenia officials said they will use a pre-manufactured adaptable wall system, developed by Canada-based company DIRTT, which are durable, soundproof, and can be used as whiteboards. The modular walls are tracked by software, which teachers can use to design and create whole new classrooms practically overnight.

CSA-Xenia is also partnering with Kettering-based esports compound Vyral, to create the school’s esports program, complete with powerful PCs, built by students, that will be capable of supporting graphic design, 3D-modeling software, and animation.

“Some people say that esports is, ‘oh, you’re just encouraging them to play video games more,’” Ervin said. “Esports is an equity game, for those who don’t have a predisposition to normal athletics. They’re still building skills, playing on a team, forming an identity.”

In their coursework, ninth graders will get exposed to the various “pathways” to graduation, including drone operation and maintenance, graphic design, entrepreneurship, robotics, culinary arts, and more. Coursework also will include a “biotech” pathway, to address the high demand for healthcare professionals in the local area.

“We have an agile curriculum because it’s relevant to the community we’re in. If this were a school in Cleveland, for example, we may not have a biotech pathway,” Ervin said. “We tailor it to what the students need and link it with the needs of the community.”

“Our students need to be aware that they can make a difference,” he added.

The school plans to place an emphasis on the dignity of trades and finding students careers where it’s not necessary to go to college.

“We’ve created a stigma in society where if you didn’t go to college, you’re something less,” Ervin said. “But there’s people doing incredible things in business and in life who have never once been to college. We should applaud both paths equally.”

The school will begin classes in fall 2022, with grades 6-10. Like the Dayton Regional Stem School or Global Impact STEM School in Springfield, CSA-Xenia is a tuition-free public school open to any student in the state.

The school plans to expand to host grades 11-12 in the next few school years, then will eventually host grades K-5 in the former East High School building on Market Street. Renovation of the Market Street building is expected to cost around $6 million.

Over the course of the next four years, CSA-Xenia hopes to expand its enrollment to 1,200 students.

The final open house prior to demolition day is this Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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