by Kevin Dicciani

When the school year begins in September, the John Story Jenks School will officially be known as Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences.

The change was two years in the making, Principal Mary Lynskey said. She said the school had to draft a resolution, explain the reasoning behind the change, and gather support and petitions from the parents and community before getting it approved this summer by the School Reform Commission.

Lynskey said the change came about organically in lieu of the school’s increased focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), a course of study incorporated into the curriculum in 2013.

“STEM is really what solidified the need for the name change,” Lynskey said. “The name change is an announcement that, ‘yes, we are dedicating ourselves to these lines of study.’”

Haviva Goldman, the president of J.S. Jenks and a parent of a Jenks’ student, said the name change will strengthen the school, especially the middle school, in numerous ways.

“It will open up new opportunities to form and strengthen partnerships with the businesses and organizations in and around Chestnut Hill,” Goldman said.

Lynskey said Jenks is going to continue to adopt programs and curriculum that correlate with its focus on the arts and sciences. These programs, she said, are integral in readying the students for future job markets.

“We are going to continue to grow,” Lynskey said. “That is the goal. I don’t think we are ever going to reach a pinnacle. We are always going to keep evolving this program and considering how it impacts our community and children.”

In addition to increasing the size of programs currently in place, such as Space Camp, Lynskey said Jenks has been in talks with various institutions that would help to reinforce that focus. Some of those include Chestnut Hill College, the Franklin Institute and Schuylkill Valley Nature Center.

“We envision these kinds of partnerships growing, with the school and its students working with local businesses, cultural and educational institutions, the public library, and members of the Chestnut Hill Community,” Goldman said. “We think this is an opportunity for Chestnut Hill to take ownership of its neighborhood school and help see it thrive and grow as a gem of Northwest Philadelphia.

Forming relationships with those institutions allows students to gain hands-on experience in the field and explore subjects they’re passionate about. This keeps in line with Lynskey’s philosophy of education, which is that students benefit greatly by learning and participating in activities outside of the classroom.

“We’re looking to extend outward,” Lynskey said. “We want to take down the walls of our school and make the education be all about learning in the world – not just learning at a desk.”