By Jeff Murphy, March 10, 2016
WARRENSBURG, MO – With strong participation from the University of Central Missouri, the Lee’s Summit community celebrated the construction kick-off of a new facility designed to house nationally recognized programs that are reshaping the way students experience education. At a March 10 groundbreaking ceremony, representatives from the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District and UCM launched construction of a new Summit Technology Academy / Missouri Innovation Campus.
The one-of-a-kind school is made possible thanks to voter approval of a 2015 Lee’s Summit R-7 no-tax-increase bond issue as well as a trailblazing partnership between the R-7 School District and UCM. The approximately $40 million facility will house Lee’s Summit R-7 Summit Technology Academy (STA); the Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC), a partnership involving R-7, UCM, and Metropolitan Community College (MCC); and programs currently housed at UCM – Lee’s Summit.
Gov. Jay Nixon was a special guest at the event, calling the project a pillar of excellence that will stand as an example of how to successfully prepare students to compete in the world economy.
“We stand here ready to turn these shovels to begin to do something that’s never been done before in the United States of America,” Gov. Nixon said.
“We have been anxiously awaiting this groundbreaking day,” said David McGehee, Lee’s Summit R-7 superintendent. “With this state-of-the-art facility, we can build on our already successful programs. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to better prepare students for their future through this out-of-the-box approach that involves educators and industry partners working together in an innovative and collaborative environment.”
Terri Harmon, Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education president, thanked the school district’s voters who approved the April 2015 no-tax-increase bond issue by approximately 80 percent. This $40 million bond issue is also funding facility improvements that are positively impacting each R-7 school.
“This school is not only changing the way students experience high school and college, it is saving money for our taxpayers by allowing us to share resources with UCM,” Harmon added.
The 140,000-square-foot facility includes spaces dedicated to the Summit Tech / MIC programs, spaces for UCM – Lee’s Summit programs and shared space that will be used by both organizations.
“Since collaboratively opening the MIC four years ago, we have broken new ground in redefining education and student success. We look to the future excited about taking our partnership to the next level through this shared facility, and the opportunity to extend elements of the MIC model into other parts of the metropolitan area and the state,” said Charles Ambrose, UCM president.
The March 10 construction kick-off was attended by approximately 130 community members.
The actual groundbreaking involved the governing boards from Lee’s Summit R-7 and
UCM; Gov. Nixon; Ambrose; McGehee; Kirk Nooks, president of MCC-Longview; Brent Blevins,
R-7 deputy superintendent;
Lee’s Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads, Bill Brown, chairperson of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council; and one student from each of the Lee’s Summit R-7 middle schools.
Summit Technology Academy opened in 1999 with the purpose of offering a highly focused academic program in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Missouri Innovation Campus, opened within Summit Tech in summer 2012 thanks to the partnership between Lee’s Summit R-7, UCM and MCC as well as the involvement of more than 40 business partners.
Recognized by President Barack Obama in 2013, the MIC focuses on preparing students for high-demand careers while accelerating the time it takes to complete a college degree and greatly reducing the cost of a college education. The first cohort of MIC students, who graduated from high school and received their associate degree from MCC in 2014, will graduate from UCM with a bachelor’s degree in May 2016. In addition to graduating at least two years ahead of their high-school classmates, the students participate in multi-year internships with industry leaders beginning their junior year of high school. The majority of the students in the first cohort have already received job offers from these recognized companies.
"The MIC program means a lot to me,” said Trevor Brixey, MIC student and intern at Cerner. “I love the innovative learning environment that gets me on the job experience while taking college courses."
Located on 15 acres near Ward and Tudor Road, the new 140,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in August 2017. Through the school district’s partnership with UCM, Lee’s Summit R-7 is paying approximately 40 percent toward the new school with UCM paying the remaining 60 percent. Based on an agreement between both organizations, the R-7 School District will be the sole owner of the facility with UCM paying its portion through a rental agreement.
For more information about Summit Tech / MIC and the April no-tax-increase bond issue, visit lsr7.org.