MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) – School officials with Madison City Schools are adding another layer of opportunities for its students.

When the new school year begins this fall, every elementary school in the district will be staffed with an art, music and STEM teacher. It’s all thanks to support from the school board and help from a Department of Defense STEM grant.

“I met with art and music teachers at the secondary level – they all even said the most important thing we could do is expand art and music for students at the elementary level. We also want to meet those demands of STEM,” said Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols. 

Dr. Nichols says they’ve been working on this for the last three years through their strategic plan. The goal is to expose students to these elective-type offerings at an early age, so they’re better equipped later in their education.  

This expansion will bring the district to four, year-long elementary opportunities for all students.

“We have two STEM teachers, but through the Department of Defense grant, we will be able to have seven across the district. Currently, we have four elementary art and four elementary music, and we’ll add three. So, we’ll have seven of each focused on our elementary schools,” said Dr. Nichols. 

The superintendent tells News 19 studies show students who get these opportunities in the fine arts score better on standardized testing.

“We’re in the epicenter of STEM jobs and opportunities in this Tennessee Valley region. So, I think giving those kids an early start and having those opportunities to look at engineering, pre-med, coding, and other areas will help them to make those decisions later in life,” replied Dr. Nichols.

Fourth-grade STEM teacher Julie Vandiver has been with Madison City Schools for four years, but she’s been teaching for 19. She says next school year, she’ll be teaching stem to K-5 students.

“Our fourth graders are the only students who get the STEM opportunity. They’re getting an hour a week and it’s been beneficial for them, and it’s had me where I’m rotating between four different schools,” said Vandiver. 

Vandiver says having more art, music, and STEM teachers will allow them to reach more students.

“Our kids now are going to be having jobs that don’t even exist yet, so I’m super excited. It’s also going to be great for our art and music teachers because they bring so much of the creativity and innovation to the table as well,” added Vandiver.

Dr. Nichols says besides giving students more opportunities to tap into their creative side and hone skills, this will free up their classroom teacher to have some planning time.