NORTH CANTON  The Holy Cross Academy plans to implement a number of 21st Century learning initiatives over the 2016-17 school year. Each of the schools within the Holy Cross system have selected a different initiative that fits the personality of the school and uses the resources found in the community each serves.

The initiatives are meant to enhance and complement the educational experiences already in place throughout the system. Each of the programs have been selected by a school based on its staff, school dynamics, family interests and the surrounding neighboring communities.

"Some of the schools knew right away what they wanted for programming while others reached out to staff, parents and the community before making a decision," said Jackie Zufall, president of Holy Cross Academy. "The initiatives came from an idea to find ways to implement valued added programming that will engage our students and provide opportunities for learning that go beyond the standard curriculum. Programming selected by the schools opens each to reaching out its community for resources and support. The initiatives will be introduced throughout the 2016-17 school year with enhanced programming in the 2017-18 school year."

Eight of the schools have determined their focus for the upcoming school year. Starting with Our Lady of Peace, the school’s focus will be on enhanced programming for "The Diversity of Achievement" with a mission to serve the underserved populations of Canton. Students will be focused on faith formation, family outreach and academic achievement for college readiness.

St. Peter’s School will utilize the strength of its location within the Canton arts district for "Arts and Innovation" combining arts with science for innovative projects in the classroom.

St. Michael’s School is adopting "Entrepreneurs and Engineers" using robotics and Lego education to lead learning at all levels. At the middle school level, students will focus on entrepreneurial programming by shadowing professionals, especially those in the STEAM professions.

Professionals in the business, medical and legal fields will be invited to come in and talk with students through a newly developed speaker series. The school has a local business owner, a professor and an owner of a technology company scheduled to speak.

"St. Michaels is currently searching for speakers to come to the school to talk with students and possibly host a few students a month for a half day of shadowing," Zufall said. "The goal of the Speaker Series and job shadowing is to introduce students to careers that might be available to them in the future and to spark interest for high school and college courses. Anyone interested in speaking can call me at 330-526-8366."

St. Joan of Arc is using "Robotics" to feature science and math for hands-on learning. The school will integrate this programming with its after-school Lego Club. The school will also pursue technology based robotics projects to learn designs and implementation.

St. Paul’s School is exploring "Global Learning." Students will explore various cultures and communities across the globe. The school plans to use Skype to communication with various diverse school communities.

St. Mary’s School will focus on "Project Based Learning" where students will direct their own learning. Students will be able to apply lessons from multiple subjects as they are presented with a project and asked to design a team solution.

St. Barbara School is pursuing becoming a "Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics" school. The school plans to adopt a STEM platform by the second school year. An elementary STEM school is unique to Stark County and St. Barbara’s will be one of only a few throughout the state.

St. Phillip and James School is looking at "Environmental Sustainability" for its programming. Building on a strong interest in energy reduction and promoting going green at the school, students will implement three initiatives, creating a school garden, creating a compost pile using food waste and possibly getting involved in community clean ups or presenting green technology to community groups.

"While academic achievement is already high in all of our elementary schools, these initiatives will enhance that and adds more options for learning by finding more ways to apply their classroom learning," said Kristie Cramer, director of marketing and enrollment.

Zufall said this year will be a introductory year for the 21st Century learning initiatives. She said benchmarks will be developed by the end of the year so that they can measure student achievement in the following years.

"The 21st Century learning programs will be a continuation of Catholic school tradition of excellence in education, discipline, faith based learning and character building," Zufall said. "The programming will integrate nicely with the expanded arts and athletic programming currently offered by schools in the Holy Cross system."