Natchez Middle School looks to join competitive online STEM program

Published 4:07 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Natchez Middle Schoolers may soon be competing in online STEM competitions on a national scale.

During the Tuesday meeting of the Natchez Adams School District Board of Trustees, the board approved a mini-grant application of a program called eCYBERMISSION, which is a web-based STEM competition for 6th through 9th-grade students.

The grant funds, valued at approximately $21 per student enrolled in the program, support teachers and program leaders as they implement eCYBERMISSION in their classrooms. Special emphasis is given to Title 1 schools and those working with underserved students, according to the program’s website.

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Participants and Natchez Middle School would include 10 teams with four students in each for a total of 40 students in the program, school officials said. With the grant, no additional funds are required of the school district for the program.

The children would try to explore and solve real-life community problems pertaining to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This year, each student in the overall winning teams of each grade level nationally was awarded $10,000 in U.S. EE Savings Bonds at maturity.

In other matters during Tuesday’s meeting, school officials approved a Memorandum of Understanding with G. Mark LaFrancis of the Home With Heroes Foundation to use a portion of the former Natchez Freshman Academy, now Ombudsman, as the foundation’s new headquarters to accommodate its need for additional space.

In a presentation he made to the board in October, LaFrancis said the school provides an ideal spot for the program. Additionally, veterans would partner with JROTC students for community service opportunities and a Patriotism Education Program, he said.

After giving the MOU agreement to board attorney Bruce Kuehnle for review, the school board unanimously supported it on Tuesday.

“It’s a three-year contract and, among other things, they will pay the utilities they consume,” Kuehnle said. “As far as any changes they would like to relocate the dumpster and remove blinds from the windows. It all seems reasonable to me.”

The board also discussed precautions it would take with anticipated below-freezing temperatures Thursday through Friday.

“We want to winterize all of our schools,” Superintendent Fred Butcher said, adding this includes cutting off water and draining all pipes at each school and having someone on call to check on the schools at least once daily to prevent water leaks.

“We hopefully won’t have any busted pipes,” he said. “We want everyone to be safe in this weather.”