CLINTON — The push for a STEM school moving to the former Ashford University campus gained momentum Friday as local public officials met to discuss future uses for the buildings.

Clinton Catalyst, LLC member Brian Clem and Iowa Sen. Rita Hart headed the meeting, bringing together representatives from organizations such as the Clinton Community School District, Clinton Community College, Clinton City Council, and others in the area to begin repurposing ideas for the campus.

The discussion remained largely focused on using the campus for science, technology, engineering, and math, as it has in recent months following Ashford’s May closing.

“Over the last few months we’ve talked about how to repurpose the campus to really be able to empower Clinton, Clinton County, and eastern Iowa in general in the education field,” Clem said. “It would be a real tragedy to not have the campus used as an educational facility given the fact that it still has all the technology — classes were in operation here just until two months ago.”

On hand to explain the importance of the science, technology, engineering, and math fields was Iowa Department of Education Division of Community Colleges Administrator Jeremy Varner.

Varner highlighted the difficulty that comes with high schools and community colleges offering the STEM fields — fields that applied to what Varner called “career and technical education.” But with the Ashford campus still very much in commission, Varner believes it could easily offer a place for local students to master the technical knowledge.

“We need to ensure that students have consistent access to high-quality technical career programs and we have an opportunity here,” Varner said. “We need to make sure that all students have access to the things that they need to have a successful, rewarding career.”

Sen. Hart appreciated the community leaders coming together, highlighting the importance of teamwork and communication when it comes to repurposing the campus to continue to serve the educational needs of area students, whether young or old.

“It’s really difficult to get the input to where it needs to go and to get that to be seamless, but that’s what I think is our ability here with the CTE program and with the STEM initiative,” Hart said. “We have the opportunity to truly forge partnerships that are going to be meaningful and helpful to students.”

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