by Logan Cook, staff writer

Pictured is Bio-Med Science Academy’s entrance. The new entrance was part of a building expansion project completed in 2021, in collaboration with NEOMED. Photo by Jesse Mitchell, staff writer.

MARCH 2022 —  Bio-Med Science Academy’s unique designation leads to many questions and varying perceptions from the community. Bio-Med’s mission statement, according to its website, is to create “a national model that leads the educational system to evolve, enabling schools to embrace innovative practices.” Bio-Med has a formal STEM designation from the state of Ohio, and is one of 76 schools to be part of the Ohio Stem Learning Network. Additionally, it is only one of eight to be considered an independent STEM school by the Ohio Department of Education, of the 3,009 public schools recognized in Ohio as of 2022.

Many students and members of the community feel Bio-Med prepares people for their future well. Senior Alex Hale-Hartman stated, “I feel that they give students a lot of great resources to follow their career dreams, especially in the STEM field.”

Eric Kline, parent of sophomore Maya Kline, said, “The tech and engineering skills are above what they would learn at most schools. I work in engineering management and have hired and developed many new engineers, and I believe Bio-Med is an example of what many more school systems should be doing to prepare students for the technical workforce.”

Sarah Schofield, parent of sophomores Abigail and Lillian Schofield, agreed with Kline’s positive perception of Bio-Med, adding, “[Bio-Med] is harder than a traditional public school – it expects more of its students… We have been impressed repeatedly at the way our kids learn/are taught. [My children] have learned to advocate for themselves and are held accountable by both the school and by us at home. We feel that our kids will be better prepared as they enter adulthood [by attending Bio-Med].”

Sophomore Zach Totaro agreed with the perceptions of Kline and Schofield but added, “Other things like communication [between the administration and students] aren’t the best.”

Lily Smith, a seventh grader, elaborated on this, saying, “[Some of our privileges], specifically dress down days, have been taken away because of a miscommunication between the students and school staff members.” Hale-Hartman agreed with Smith, stating, “I feel that Bio-Med sufficiently lacks communication skills, which caused increased stress for me.”

Abigail Schofield believes the lack of certain classes, namely foreign languages, to be a negative aspect of Bio-Med. “It can be very difficult to take CCP classes [with our normal school work],” said Schofield. In addition, Schofield noted there seems to be a lack of janitorial staff as well, saying, “the school [seems] to be dirty looking, like the bathrooms are very unclean.”

Despite the negative aspects students described, many said Bio-Med was still a great fit for them.

“Bio-Med has still been the best learning place for a good education,” said freshman Kiara Krunich.

Smith agreed with this, saying, “Bio-Med is a great school. It allows students to be taught with interactive and group assignments that help students better understand and grasp what is being taught. I think it is definitely worth putting up [with the negative aspects].”

Students complimented the community of Bio-Med, saying it was stronger than the schools they had been at before. “I can always find something to get enjoyment out of without the fear of anyone making fun of me, as we truly are all weird here. The friends I’ve made here have been those I can always turn to, and so have the teachers,” said sophomore John Garden.

Bio-Med teachers felt the same about the community. Eighth grade Language Arts teacher Mr. Aaron Ettinger said, “I would like to say that our Bio-Med community is ‘buzzin.’”

Many teachers agreed with Ettinger. Tenth grade Social Studies teacher Miss Kaitlyn Long said, “Of course, there are cliques like in every school, but that doesn’t stop students from talking to someone. I really wasn’t expecting an environment where students are able to be true to themselves and their peers welcomed it.”

Seventh grade Social Studies teacher Mr. James Pennell emphasized that the strong community aspects extend beyond the students into the teacher relationships as well. “Once I got the job offer to work here, I was immediately happy. I was very quickly brought into a group of people that I enjoyed working with,” said Pennell.

Ettinger believed that the community could be further improved, since students miss out on certain events from a public school. “Pep-rallies, the fight song, Friday night football games, or living in the same neighborhood as [your peers], all contribute to the culture of a student-body,” said Ettinger. “I think that providing students more opportunities to come together at school in larger groups to celebrate students’ efforts and achievements could be a really cool way to bring everyone together.”

Garden added to this, saying, “We haven’t been in a public school for so long, five, six years, it’s hard for us to compare it to Bio-Med. We haven’t gone through public high school, we don’t know what it’s like.”

People outside of Bio-Med often aren’t fully educated about the school. Pennell noted, “When I started subbing, I had no clue that [Bio-Med] even existed.  I grew up in Portage County and I had never heard of [Bio-Med].”

Ninth grade Social Studies teacher Mr. William Ullinger and Eighth grade Social Studies teacher Mrs. Morgan Brunner agreed. Ullinger said, “I think there is a lot of ignorance of Bio-Med. When I am asked where I teach and I say ‘Bio-Med,’ I often have to explain what and where it is. Then I get asked if it is a school ‘just for smart kids?’ Public perception is that [Bio-Med] is for the highest achievers rather than it allows for hands-on and student-centered teaching that is offered to everybody and anybody.”

In-line with this perception, 10th grade Rootstown High School student Trent Gauer asked, “Isn’t Bio-Med just a school for smart kids?”

Ninth grade Language Arts Teacher Mr. Brian McDonald said that he expects the perception of Bio-Med to change as time goes on. He said, “[the perception is going to change] a bit over time.  Instead of students choosing to go here, as the grades that feed into Bio-Med go lower and lower, it’s the parents that are making the choice to have their students attend instead of the students making this decision for themselves. This is not fundamentally better or worse.  It’s just different.”

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