Grantee Corner  |  Richland School District Two

Two female students smile while one plays with a yellow substance
Westwood High School students use glue, food coloring, water, and borax to create a substance called gloop

A female student pours a mint green substance from a beaker into another female student’s hands
Westwood High School students test gloop for its bounce, sliminess, and ability to stretch

A male student wearing lab goggles holds a beaker
Westwood High School student explores polymer through lab exercises in chemistry class

One female student claps to the beat while another dances
Longleaf Engineering & Arts Program Middle School students perform the Virginia Reel in dance class

Two male students look through microscopes while sitting at a lab table
Longleaf Engineering & Arts Program Middle School students use microscopes to learn how to classify living and non-living things

Four female students and a male teacher dance in a circle
Longleaf Engineering & Arts Program Middle School students learn the Virginia Reel as they focus on the importance of fitness and culture through dance

A student sits on stage in an old-fashioned costume
Westwood High School student performs in the Drama and Dance Department’s original piece entitled "Gullah Gumbo"

Headshot of Arlene Bakutes
Arlene Bakutes, Richland Two Project Director

Richland School District Two, in South Carolina’s capital city of Columbia, is the third fastest growing school district in the state. Richland Two constantly strives to design the best learning and professional development opportunities for 27,000 plus students and 3,400 employees. The district has 678 National Board Certified teachers, the most in South Carolina, and ranks in the top 20 in the nation. Families relocate to Richland Two because of its high academic standards, selection of magnet programs, and strong community partnerships.

Three new magnet schools have been created with Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant funding, which supports a project called Full STEAM Ahead. An elementary, middle, and high school create a learning pathway that includes science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM) in the curriculum. These schools use project-based learning to give students hands-on experiences and help them develop 21st century skills that will support their continued success.

Killian Elementary STEAM Leaders Academy serves 645 students in grades K-5. The school provides a challenging learning environment while it supports students to develop their critical and creative thinking skills. Students use a state-of-the-art broadcast studio that provides hands-on “Today Show” production opportunities. The LEGO Robotics Lab continues to be a favorite learning area for students and teachers alike. A Drums 101 and Drumline Performance Team, a graphic arts design studio, a keyboarding studio, and a string ensemble help to make Killian STEAM Leaders Academy a highly popular magnet school.

Longleaf Engineering & Arts Program (L.E.A.P.) Middle School serves 665 students in grades 6-8. Science labs, emerging technology, expanded arts options, collaborations across academic subjects, and an engineering mind-set to problem solving help these students LEAP into the future. Students may select from visual arts, band, orchestra, chorus, musical keyboarding, graphic arts, dance, and drama courses. A variety of cultural experiences attract students who like to express themselves artistically or wish to learn to do so. Overall, LEAP prepares tomorrow’s leaders to solve social challenges and to create positive solutions to increase global interdependence.

Westwood High School continues the STEAM pathway with its Institute of Research, Engagement, and Design (iRED). The school serves 1,338 students in grades 9-12. The faculty and students hold five core values that affect all aspects of teaching and learning: respect, responsibility, integrity, community, and empathy. Students use the latest scientific probeware to conduct inquiries into alternative energy, environmental technology, and robotics. iRED provides many opportunities for students to engage in academic research through a full computer lab and media library. The Makerspace is always buzzing with innovative student designs. The active performing arts scene at Westwood includes orchestra and marching bands, plus dance and choral music classes. As the newest high school in the district, Westwood has worked to build strong partnerships with surrounding businesses so it can provide real-world experiences for students.

The Full STEAM Ahead project aims to promote diversity; increase academic achievement; develop connections between students, parents, and teachers, and their school, community, and global environments; and build staff and district capacity.

Dr. Arlene Bakutes holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction, including a specialization in rhetoric. She has more than 24 years of experience as an English/ELA teacher, instructional coach, postsecondary professor, and grants coordinator. With teaching experience in Tennessee, Louisiana, New York, Indiana, and South Carolina, Dr. Bakutes recognizes the critical importance of fully supporting the teachers and administrators who implement the Full STEAM Ahead project.