PHOTO: Half of the former Columbia State Community College campus is now called the Franklin annex, and the other half will house the WCS Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center for the start of the 2019-20 school year. / File photo


With one day left to register, the total number of students who have signed up for the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center through Williamson County Schools is expected to be around 150 with grades eight through 11 represented.

That’s according to Juli Oyer, executive director of the district’s College, Career and Technical Education, who gave a brief update of the program during the WCS Board of Education’s work session Thursday night.

The work session followed a three-hour meeting in which board members were presented with the first look at the 2019-20 school budget that will be hammered out later this year. WCS Superintendent Mike Looney and Leslie Holman, assistant superintendent over Budget and Finance, presented the numbers.

The EIC, which is expected to open for the 2019-20 school year, will be housed in a newly renovated 10,000-square-foot-facility that was formerly part of the Williamson campus for Columbia State Community College, adjacent to Franklin High School. Half of the building, known as the Franklin annex, opened just over a year ago to provide extra classroom space primarily for freshmen.

Oyer presented the report that was prepared by the EIC’s director, Kari Miller, who was hired in December and was unable to attend Thursday’s work session.

“I had the opportunity recently to go to Naperville (Illinois) and to a school district in Ohio, and saw places that are doing this kind of work,” Oyer said. “And what they are doing both in education and facility compared to what we will be doing in education and facility is not even in the same ballpark. It’s shockingly unbelievable the amount of work that has already happened.”

As of the end of the day on March 12, 136 students had applied for the EIC, 63 percent male and 37 percent female. All WCS high schools have had at least one student apply, with most coming from Franklin High and Brentwood High, each with 27.

Forty-eight applicants are 11th graders while 43 are in 10th grade and 30 in ninth. Fifteen current eighth graders have applied for a spot in what will be their first year in high school.

“We definitely have some freshmen who have expressed interest, which is really exciting,” Oyer said. “We’ve had a lot of conversation over whether that’s a good idea. We know it’s going to take a very specific type of student to come and be successful in that type of transition as they’re transitioning to high school anyway.”

A couple of board members asked how the program might attract more young women down the road, with the current number of 50 girls compared to 86 boys. Oyer said there is also a focus on a solid representation of minorities.

“All of those pockets of diversity are being talked about with the advisory board in making sure that, as we’re bring more board members in, that they’re representative of the student that we want,” she said. “The same thing is true in mentors, so that we’re having social entrepreneurs as much as we have health care entrepreneurs or business entrepreneurs. That [idea] is being threaded through in every conversation we’re having.”

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