STEM Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who can attend the STEM School?

A: For 9th Grade: Any student on track to complete the 8th grade with residency in Hamilton County. This includes students in Hamilton County schools, private schools or home school programs. Admission is limited to a cohort of 80 students for 9th grade, adding a new cohort of 80 each year until the school reaches a maximum capacity of 300 in grades 9-12.
For 10th or 11th Grade: Any student on track to complete the 9th or 10th grade with residency in Hamilton County. This includes students in Hamilton County schools, private schools or home school programs. Admission is limited to seats that become open based on students that have moved or changed schools after 9th or 10th grades. There are normally very few seats available for 10th or 11th grade.

Q: How do I apply?

A: For 9th Grade: Online registration is available each school year on the Hamilton County Department of Education website at www.hcde.org from November 15 when the application process begins until January 31st when the process closes. Only students who apply online will be considered.
For 10th or 11th Grade: For the upcoming 2024-25 school year, we do not currently have open seats. However, we will again evaluate open seat opportunities at the end of the school year in May 2024. Interested students for potential opens seats should contact the STEM School front office and request to be put on a waiting list. If seats become available, we will email parents of the students on the waiting list at the end of May 2024 to let them know seats have become available.  

Q: How will students be selected?

A: For 9th Grade:  A school board zone lottery system will be used which historically takes place in mid-February. Each Hamilton County School Board zone will be provided an allocated number of STEM seats. The allocations are done by the size of the existing student population in the school board zone. There are eleven school board zones in Hamilton County Schools. Each student will be placed in one of the eleven school board zone lotteries based on the student’s primary address. Students will be selected by lottery in each zone. Students not selected will be placed on a waiting list for that zone’s seats until school begins in the fall.

Here is an illustrative example only:
Zone School 1: 10 slots, 5 applicants: All 5 applicants accepted and 5 slots go to second lottery.
Zone School 2: 10 slots, 13 applicants: Lottery held between all 13 applicants for the 10 slots. The three that are not selected go into second lottery.

For 10th or 11th Grade: Currently, there are no seats available for grades 10 and 11. However, the STEM School will keep a waiting list for students interested in potential openings for grades 10 and 11. If an opening occurs, the school will contact students on the waiting list with next steps. Expectations for consideration for grade 10: Passed all 9th grade classes. Expectations for consideration for grade 11: Passed all 9th and 10th grade classes. Communication: The school will send out an email in the first week of March explaining the process for opening seats. The STEM School should receive completed school year transcripts by the end of the first week of June. The school will then contact the student/parent for individual meetings at school in the summer. If more applicants than spots are available (ex: 10 submissions for 5 open seats), then a blind lottery will be run at the school for the open seats for all students who meet the consideration criteria. Admin meetings will occur between students and parents to discuss the offered seat. Families who are offered a seat will have one week to accept the seat.

Q: If my student doesn't get in through the lottery or the waitlist, can they still benefit from the curriculum at the school?

A: Yes. The STEM Innovation Hub as part of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network works to push out STEM School curriculum and initiatives throughout the Southeast TN region. For example, VW eLabs (digital fabrication STEM labs) are the result of the work done at the STEM School.

Q: Do I have to get my student to and from school - won't there be transportation?

A: Transportation will be planned after the school lottery process so that HCDE (Hamilton County Department of Education) knows where the students who will attend the school live. Since students come from all over the county region and are part of the entire Hamilton County Schools transportation plan, transportation details are established just prior to the school year beginning. Initial bus routes will be shared each year at registration and finalized bus routes will take place when school begins.

Q: What if my student isn't happy with the school; can they transfer back to their zoned school?

A: Mid-year transfers will not be allowed but after completing the first year, if it truly isn't a good fit, the student can transfer back to their zone school.

Q: Where is the STEM School located?

A: On the beautiful campus of Chattanooga State Community College, 4501 Amnicola Highway, Chattanooga, TN. Through a collaborative effort with Hamilton County Department of Education and Chattanooga State, students attending this school will enjoy over 35,000 square foot of space in an open concept design.

Q: A high school on a college campus, is this safe?

A: Yes! Students while in 9th and 10th grades will have limited interaction with the Chattanooga State students while enjoying the benefits of access to campus facilities. While in 11th and 12th grades, students become a member of the Chattanooga State campus just like a college student. Chattanooga State has already successfully demonstrated their ability to provide a safe learning environment for their own students as well as Hamilton County students attending Collegiate High for over a decade. Chattanooga State police consistently monitor our campus and are a strong partner in providing safe opportunities for our students.

Q: I've heard that the school does not have "traditional" hours. Is this true?

A: In short, yes. Research has proven that the adolescent brain is most active and ready to learn later in the morning. What parent can't relate to this when trying to rouse a teenager on an early weekday morning! This school will adapt practices wherever possible to ensure that the student is at the center of the education model and this includes changing school times to better reflect when students are ready to learn. Consequently, school begins each day at 9:30am.

Q: Does this mean that the school day will end later too?

A: Yes. The length of a school day is set by Tennessee State law. Since the school day starts at 9:30am, the school day ends at 4:30pm.

Q: What time will the school be opened each day and what time will the school close?

A: The school doors will open to students at 9:00am each day. The school will close each day at 5:00pm.

Q: My child is interested in athletics and other extracurricular activities. Will students at the STEM School have these types of opportunities?

A: We have a partnership with Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences in athletics for Boys' baseball, Boys' and Girls' basketball, Boys' and Girls' Cross Country, Boys' and Girls' Soccer, Girls' Softball, Boys' and Girls' Tennis, Boys' and Girls' Track and Field and Girls' Volleyball. For a list of current extra-curricular opportunities, click on the link titled "Clubs, Athletics, and Extracurricular Organizations" under the “For Students” tab.

Q: Will my student be able to buy a lunch at school or do they have to bring a sack-lunch every day?

A: Hamilton County Department of Education Nutrition program will be available to all students. Free and reduced prices lunches based on individual circumstances are available at the STEM School as at any other HCDE school. However, no money is collected during lunch. Students who want to pay for meal items must go online and add money into MyPaymentsPlus meal plan.

Q: Can parents take their child out to lunch or deliver lunch to school?

A: In order to minimize distractions, we follow these procedures. First, we discourage parents from signing students out for lunch unless they are leaving for the day or have a doctor's appointment. Second, parents cannot deliver restaurant food for lunch. Students should pack lunch if not eating the served school lunch. Third, a parent is welcome to come and eat lunch with their child at the school on any day. However, we discourage bringing restaurant food. Please keep in mind that lunch time at the STEM School is an important part of the day for students to have access to each teacher, and each teacher to have access to each student. By minimizing distractions, students learn to use this time as a valuable resource in their learning.

Q: What is the curriculum for the STEM School? Is it really going to be different than what any other school does?

A: Though the curriculum is aligned with State of Tennessee and Common Core Standards just like any other school, the STEM School focus is on applying State of Tennessee and Common Core Standards to provide authentic and relevant learning experiences as part of everyday learning. The keystone of the STEM School is an integrated curricular model with a central focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Partnerships with post-secondary institutions and regional businesses will provide opportunities for a college like experience in 11th & 12th grade years in which college coursework and business/community projects are a focal point of the student experience.
The instruction at the STEM School will be rooted in a project and problem based learning philosophy. Project and problem based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross curricular skills while working in small collaborative groups. Because project and problem based education yields active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they are studying. Strong related arts programs and sophisticated technological resources will foster creativity and advance technical capabilities among the students. The teaching model will guide students through a unique, cutting-edge learning experience and challenge them to shift their thinking to the practical applications of academic material.
STEM School Chattanooga is the highest rated STEM school in the state of Tennessee and is considered a Platform STEM School. This means we are a national site for innovative STEM learning and thousands of visitors tour our school. Students are part of an educational process to impact not only their experience but to provide an example for other schools and educators as a model for STEM education.
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