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Regional STEAM school takes step forward in the planning process

The former Central High School will become a regional STEAM school at Syracuse Central. Officials announced their plans back in early 2019.
Scott Willis
The former Central High School will become a regional STEAM school at Syracuse Central. Officials announced their plans back in early 2019.

Plans for the regional STEAM school at Syracuse Central took another step forward Tuesday, at least on paper. Syracuse Common councilors approved an agreement that spells out the roles of the city, the school district, and Onondaga County in the construction of the school. City school district Chief Financial Officer Suzanne Slack says this is separate from the lease, which has already been signed.

"The process we're in now to select an architect, and when it's time to pull to select construction workers, when the construction's actually going on and things come up, the three entities are going to work together collaboratively. Hopefully we all come to the same conclusion, but in the event that we don't, if we don't all agree, then during this phase, the school district has the final say for the architect and the design. After that, it really does transition to the county because the county's going to borrow the money and manage the construction project."

Meanwhile, officials are creating the curriculum for the unique school. Longtime Syracuse-area education expert and STEAM school consultant Jodi Manning says they’re approaching this differently, what he calls reverse engineering.

"Once we found out the programs that need to be in that building, we then developed the curriculum. Now I always tell people that, I worked for the state education department for seven years. We sat in rooms, we built curriculum, and then we would tell high schools what to do. Later on, we found out, there was a disconnect between the real world and higher ed. This approach makes sure there's a connection."

Meanwhile, Manning says they’re working on agreements with at least three higher education partners, which he wouldn't name, and continue to seek corporate partnerships. The project began to take root in 2018, and received a financial commitment from the state in 2020. But Manning says the original $74 million price tag to renovate the more than 120-year-old building will surely be higher due to inflation and supply chain issues that have cropped up since then.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at