Los Angeles archdiocese opening new STEM academy

Department of Catholic Schools says St. John Paul II STEM Academy at Bellarmine-Jefferson is slated to open for the 2019-2020 academic year at the site of the former Bellarmine-Jefferson High School Burbank

St. John Paul II STEM Academy is set to open in August 2019 on the former campus of Bellarime-Jefferson, which closed in June. (File Photo)

As the sun sets on Bellarmine-Jefferson High School after a 74-year run in Burbank, a new institution is rising to take its place, connecting with alumni and forging its own future.

Kevin Baxter, superintendent of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, laid out a framework on Tuesday for the new school — called St. John Paul II STEM Academy at Bellarmine-Jefferson — which included the hiring of founding director Jeff Hilger.

St. John Paul II STEM Academy is set to open in August 2019 on the former campus of Bellarime-Jefferson, located on 465 E. Olive Ave., which closed in June. The school is slated to have a co-educational policy, though the school is taking a unique position in splitting some classes by gender.

STEM refers to courses in science, technology, engineering and math.

“In those STEM subjects, we’re going to create single-gender classrooms,” Baxter said. “There’s a lot of research on this, where single-gender instruction can be a more effective model of instruction, while also having a co-education school, which gives you all the benefits of socialization.”

As for the selection of the school’s namesake, that choice came from a high office.

“The suggestion of St. John Paul II was from Archbishop [Jose] Gomez,” Baxter said. “His approach was that he’s a saint, a pope who visited Los Angeles (in 1987), he visited the United States multiple times and we don’t have a school named after him yet [in the diocese].”

In a way, St. John Paul II was also responsible for attracting its founding director.

“For about the past five years, I’d been seriously considering a move from the public-schools world to the Catholic-schools world,” said Hilger, a charter school guru who spent 20 years in public education, in an email.

“When I learned about the opportunity to open up a brand-new STEM academy on the site of Bellarmine-Jefferson, I became highly intrigued. When I learned that the school would be named in honor of St. John Paul II, I knew I had to apply. I’ve always had a great devotion to the pope of my youth. I’m honored and humbled to be starting a school named in his honor,” he added.

Full story at The LA Times.

Comments

  1. I understand the research supporting gender separate instruction in certain subjects. I trust the academic content and rigor will be the same for both genders. Otherwise, students may not be able to compete in the fully coed environment of most universities.

  2. Tom Byrne says:

    Mike M:
    I taught chemistry and physics at a a girls’ high school for a quarter-century, and my students sometimes complained that i went faster than their boyfriends’ teachers at a local boys’ school. I wish this school well, provided the Catholic faith is clearly taught and permeates school life.

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