Catherine Ross, NBC 5 Collin County Reporter
The Plano Independent School District is setting a new standard in education when it opens three new academy high schools this fall.
The Plano school district will open in the fall a standalone, academy-style high school that uses a project-based, collaborative learning model.
Administrators say part of the Plano Independent School District's future lies in giving students and parents more choices.
"I think public education is taking a turn," said Renee Godi, principal of the district's new Academy High School.
The academy is one of three opening in the fall of 2013 but is the only new standalone campus.
The school will have a project-based setup focused on a science, technology, engineering, arts and math curriculum.
While a lot of schools focus on a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum or have project-based learning, few schools have done "true interdisciplinary work," said Jim Hirsch, assistant superintendent of academics and technology.
The school will do away the traditional, structured eight-period school day to create what the district calls a "collaborative environment," much like a real-world office.
The school is housed in a former office building, much of which is open space.
"Our day is not defined by the courses students have to take, but more in line with the projects that they're working on," Godi said.
For example, students would study the moon landing event by looking at it from every angle, from the science behind the discovery to the math applications involved and even the social context, administrators said.
"It's really about identifying with the way of learning," Godi said.
Plano ISD parent Raj Menon served on the academy steering committee during its design and development phases.
"If I were to go to high school again, I would definitely pick this school," he said. "I really think it allows the kids to be engaged at a different level."
His eighth-grader is one of the 400 or more students vying for the school's 300 spots for incoming freshman and sophomores.
The academy has found support from corporate sponsors such as Texas Instruments.