MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The proposed Renaissance Academy in Monongalia County came from planning discussions with local leaders to address changing academic needs in a digital world and to broaden the curriculum to prepare students for the future.

Voters will be asked to approve a bond request on the May 14 primary ballot for $142.6 million to fund the project. A sample ballot is available for review at the Monongalia County Clerk’s website.

On WAJR’s “Talk of the Town,” Superintendent Eddie Campbell said the panelists determined there was a need for a more career-focused delivery system that offered vocational and technical options. The number of students who apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), the form that determines the financial support available for students entering college, is at an all-time low. That would be consistent with a national trend of fewer high school seniors going to college and instead opting to enter the workforce.

“The need was to upscale our career and technical education programs so that we were creating a skill set for students so they could go into high-level skilled trades work,” Campbell said.

According to Campbell, Monongalia County does not have a comprehensive high school. A facility dedicated to a full suite of education opportunities, from college prep to vocational and technical.

“Many of our students who want to avail themselves of both STEM and career technical education don’t have the opportunity to do that; they have to make choices in their curriculum, and we’re trying to eliminate those choices,” Campbell said.

The details of the Renaissance Academy have been developed through site visits to similar facilities in Colorado and Virginia. Campbell said officials learned similar facilities like the Cherry Creek Academy in Englewood, Colorado, and the Academies of Loudoun in Leesburg, Virginia, challenge students through engagement. The young people of today want to learn in an environment that includes hands-on components and real-world applications.

“The biggest piece of data you can look at is that they have 99 percent attendance rates and no discipline issues—discipline issues decline significantly in these schools,” Campbell said. “Those are pieces of data you look at and say, This is a model that creates student engagement.”

Surveys taken locally show students want to be engaged; in fact, more than 50 percent of the students said if they weren’t involved in athletics or a club, they really weren’t motivated to come to school. The Renaissance Academy concept gives students relevance, which Campbell said will develop motivated learners.

“Students today really learn in a different format,” Campbell said. “The Renaissance Academy is an attempt to directly attack that problem; we want to engage our students in active learning.”

The Renaissance Academy has an expressed mission of addressing the 50 percent of the student body that lacks the motivation to embrace learning. Campbell expects many students who graduate from the academy to be able to enter the local workforce with a certification and meaningful employment.

“We’re trying to create a future-forward facility that will give our kids the ability to address those skillsets that are going to allow them to work in future-forward types of employment.”