Board Vice President Alison Swanson abstained from the vote.
Board members voiced concerns over the cost of the STEM school, plus the fact that a relatively small number of students — 50 from each district — would be able to attend. Officials even suggested the possibility that District 308 could one day create its own STEM program that would be open to more Oswego students.
Board president Bill Walsh said he feels the existing staff and curriculum in District 308 are already preparing students to excel in science, technology and math.
"I understand what it takes to compete ... in a global environment that we're in," Walsh said. "I know that the system here is preparing our students to compete both locally and internationally.
"I feel that we're doing a very good job," Walsh said, adding, "I feel that our resources should be continually focused here in our environment."
Board member Brent Lightfoot was critical of the small number of District 308 students that would be admitted to the STEM school.
"At the elementary level, that means less than one student in each of the elementary school buildings. That's a pretty small number," Lightfoot said. "It's infinitesimal."
The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, estimated to cost $12 million, is being constructed on the Aurora University campus and was originally envisioned as a partnership that would serve third- through eighth-grade students from Oswego District 308, West Aurora, East Aurora and Indian Prairie school districts.
Students would be chosen by their home school district, and would return to the district upon "graduating" from the STEM program.
Construction on the school began last fall, and the program is slated to open in August.
Aurora University spokesman Steven McFarland said despite the lack of participation from Oswego, the school is still on track to open on schedule. Plans call for the STEM school to be funded by Aurora University and the participating school districts.
On Tuesday, McFarland issued a joint statement from the university and the three remaining school districts involved in the STEM school.
"We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with many dedicated teachers and administrators in School District 308 over the past four years on this project," the statement said. "As we enter this final phase of preparation for the school to open, we are disappointed to learn of this development."
The statement goes on, "Like our elected officials and many community and corporate partners, we remain committed to this first-in-the-nation concept and its potential to advance learning, teaching and the economic vitality of the Fox Valley Region. ... We look forward to opening the school in August."
Last month during a STEM school presentation by Aurora University Executive Director of the Institute for Collaboration Sherry Eagle, board members seemed hesitant to commit to the STEM school.
“Ninety-nine percent of what you’re proposing is wonderful,” said board member Greg O’Neil. “But we have over 17,000 kids who need those opportunities. We’re talking about 50.”
Eagle said the program in “one fell swoop” won’t address the needs of more than 17,000 students, but “you have to start somewhere.”
O'Neil commented that the school sounded similar to a charter school, which the board had denied last year.