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Academy reaches new heights

by ELLI GOLDMAN HILBERT
Staff Writer | September 4, 2021 1:00 AM

RATHDRUM — North Idaho STEM Charter Academy finished construction of its latest building addition just in time to welcome 600 students back to school Tuesday.

Founded by Executive Director Scott Thomson and his wife Colleen, the academy is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

They have a lot to celebrate.

When the school opened, it offered kindergarten through sixth-grade and in 2014 expanded to include middle and high school.

“We started with a goal of having 300 students,” Thomson said.

The campus has grown to 65,000 square feet on 7 acres from 16,000 square feet on 4 acres.

With a panoramic view of Rathdrum Mountain, the latest addition is a two-story, 22,500-square-foot building that houses eight classrooms, a commons area, study hall, dual credit room and a fabrication lab equipped with a laser cutter and several types of 3-D printers.

The lab has a garage door opening onto a broad patio area.

“Kids get bigger as they get older,” said Principal Travis Swick. “And bigger kids means bigger projects.”

The academy is consistently at the top of the charts for ISAT, SAT, IRI scores and almost all students go on to college following graduation.

“Our graduating seniors, on average, receive over $80,000 in scholarship money,” Thomson said.

Most academy students also graduate with an associate degree along with their high school diploma, Thomson said.

STEM Charter Academy has maintained a 100% graduation rate. Even through the COVID-19 pandemic it was recognized as one of only 22 public schools in Idaho to reach that goal.

They did not close their doors, Swick said, but had a mask mandate when the Panhandle Health District issued one.

“It was better for our parents and better for our kids to have structure,” Thomson said. “Our teachers wanted to be teaching.”

The focus of the academy is science, technology, engineering and math, but students also study language arts and music. They are known for their involvement in robotics work.

“We do feel very fortunate and are very excited about what we will be able to do for our kids,” Swick said.

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ELLI GOLDMAN HILBERT/Press

North Idaho STEM Charter Academy's newest building addition. A 22,500 square foot space that brings the campus total up to 65,000 square feet, covering seven acres. The addition will house eight roomy classrooms, a commons space, study hall, dual credit room and a fabrication lab.