About Us

Olathe Public Schools 21st Century Academies

The Olathe Public Schools offers 15 unique and innovative 21st Century Academies for high school students. These academies are housed within the district’s high schools. These innovative, four-year programs allow students to build upon their interests and learn specific knowledge and skills they can apply towards their post-secondary experiences and career fields. The district has a long history of innovative 21st Century Academies, dating back to 2003.

Student Interest/Passion centered around career pathways

Leads to varied post-secondary/career opportunities

Career CruisingTM


Career searches

Post-Secondary searches

4+2 Year Individual Plan of Study (IPS)

Three-tiered endorsement

Industry standard/University level equipment

Essential Employability Skills implemented 9-12


Capstone Project

Senior Presentation

Culmination of 4 yrs. of study

Cross grade level interactions/Co-curricular opportunities

Project-based Learning/Authentic Learning

Professional Learning Experiences (PLE’s) such as:

Connection with Higher Education, Businesses, Organizations

Mentorship opportunities

Community outreach


Potential Certifications

Professional Conference Attendance/Presentation/Membership

Summer Experiences

Advisory Committee

Comprised of persons outside the education profession who advise on the development and operation of the academy based on employment needs.

Meets minimally 2Xs a year

essential employability skills logoEssential Employability Skills

Business, community, and higher education leaders were asked in recent advisory and group meetings in the Olathe Public Schools what top 3-5 skills would make our students successful no matter what their post-secondary experience and eventual career field. Employability and soft skills were at the top of the list! While general knowledge, attributes such as problem solving and critical thinking, and other technical skills were identified as important, it was the employability and soft skills that seem to make the difference for success.

Dr. Randy Watson, Education Commissioner for the State of Kansas, recently went on a statewide tour and asked: “What are the qualities, characteristics and skills of a successful 24-year-old?”

He found that business and community leaders statewide were looking for individuals with appropriate employability skills. Watson said that schools need to turn out graduates that are critical and independent thinkers, risk takers, more creative, more personable, able to work well with others, and have a good work ethic.

What can you expect from a 21st Century Academy?  Any student who is a member of a 21st Century Academy will be taught employability and soft skills, will have a chance to practice those skills, and will receive feedback regarding the skills somewhere in their 4-year plan of study for the academy. We have identified 8 skills that will be taught.

  1. Collaboration – teamwork, reliability, roles within a team
  2. Communication – Interpersonal communication: active listening, clear message, appropriate non-verbal skills [facial expressions, posture, body language, dress], handshakes, empathy, fairness, compassion, respect for diversity; Written communication:  clear, accurate, matched to audience
  3. Ethics – confidentiality, honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, good citizenship
  4. Leadership – awareness of strengths/weaknesses of self and team, initiative, confidence, being a self-advocate, understanding workplace rights
  5. Presentation Skills – elements of effective presentations including capturing attention, knowing your audience, establishing an objective/goal, preparation, delivery
  6. Professionalism – attendance, punctuality, electronic media etiquette, positive attitude, response to feedback/criticism, life-long learning, personal branding, goal setting
  7. Post-Secondary/Career Placement – networking, college/career exploration, interview skills, resume, portfolio development
  8. Time/Project Management – planning, organizing, creative problem-solving, meeting deadlines, resource management, decision-making process

Our goal in the 21st Century High School Academies is to ensure that “Students are prepared for their future!”

Our Academies by Location and Career Path

Every 21st Century Academy is located at only one high school. The location of each academy is listed under the various career paths.


  • Animal Health at Olathe North High School
  • Geoscience at Olathe North High School
  • Green Tech at Olathe West High School

Distinguished Scholar at Olathe North High School

  • Language Arts
  • Math
  • Political Science
  • Science
  • Visual Arts

Human Health:

  • BIOengineering at Olathe South High School
  • Medical Professions at Olathe North High School
  • Sports Medicine & Exercise Science at Olathe North High School

Media, Communications, & Technology:

  • Computer Science at Olathe South High School
  • e-Communication at Olathe Northwest High School


  • Business Finance at Olathe South High School

Engineering, Design & Production:

  • Design at Olathe East High School
  • Engineering at Olathe Northwest High School
  • BIOengineering at Olathe South High School

Public & Human Services:

  • Civic Leadership at Olathe East High School
  • Future Educators at Olathe East High School
  • Public Safety at Olathe West High School

What are 21st Century Academies?

  • Academies focus on specialized career field
  • Specialized coursework – four-year plan of study
  • Amazing specialized equipment
  • Hands-on experiences inside and outside of the classroom
  • Special real-world opportunities including competitions, field trips, volunteer hours, senior projects, internships and special events.
  • Experiences enriched by many partners!

Why did Olathe create the 21st Century High School academies?

The 21st Century High School academies were developed in response to community input. During the 2000-01 school year, the district conducted focus groups of more than 400 stakeholders on the necessary ingredients of a 21st century education. Participants included parents, high school faculty and other district staff, students, business partners, representatives of higher education, and the community. Focus groups agreed on these themes:

  • make classroom learning relevant to the outside world;
  • focus on the global workplace;
  • recognize the broad-based role of technology;
  • promote the importance of citizenship and character; and
  • provide flexibility of schedule and interactive instructional methodology.

What are the steps for enrolling in an academy?

  • A student interested in applying for an academy will fill out an online application during the read application period, which begins in conjunction with the Eighth-Grade Career EXPO.
  • Once the form is submitted students are contacted by the academy facilitator and a pre-enrollment meeting is arranged with the students and parents/guardian to go over academy requirements and suggested course enrollment.

Students then enroll in the high school as a full-time student where the program is hosted. Please note: academy acceptance serves as a student’s transfer application. A separate transfer request form is not needed.

When should a student apply for a 21st Century academy?

  • Four-year academies – Application for enrollment in a four-year academy is primarily open to students entering their freshman year of high school with sophomores eligible to apply on a space-available basis. The academies are designed to be completed in four years in order to give students full access to course options and extended learning activities.

If a student participates in a four-year 21st Century Academy at a high school other than their home high school, does that become his or her home high school, even if he/she lives in another attendance area?

Yes, students enrolled in a four-year 21st Century High School Academy attend full-time at the high school where the academy is located. They participate in all extra and co-curricular activities at the transfer high school.

Is transportation to 21st Century Academies provided?

Tradnsportation is provided at district expense for students attending 21st Century Academies at schools other than their home school. (For example, a student lives in the Olathe North boundary area but has applied to attend/or is attending a 21st  Century Academy located at Olathe South). Bus routes are built around those who have registered for bus transportation during the early enrollment period (May 1 – July 1). Bus stops are primarily established by placing stops near corners that are centrally located within a neighborhood. Information regarding exact bus stop locations will be available on Registration Day at the end of July.

What if my student enrolls in the academy and then changes his/her mind?

Students enrolled in a 21st Century High School Academy who decide they do not wish to continue in the academy are eligible to return to their boundary high school for the following school year. Because the 21st Century High School Academies incorporate many of the foundation subjects, students in those academies stay on track with necessary course work for completion of high school and entry to Qualified Admissions, Regents institutions.

NOTE: Students who leave the academy and transfer back to their boundary high school may lose eligibility to participate in sports or competitive activities for 18 weeks, according to Kansas State High School Activities Association rules.

What is an endorsement?

Students participating in the four-year 21st Century High School Academies are eligible to earn an endorsement. An endorsement is recognition on a student’s transcript that indicates the student’s focus or area of study. The concept is similar to other designations made on students’ transcripts, such as Advanced Placement, honor classes, and Career / Technical certifications. Endorsements can be used by students as a self-marketing tool, for résumé information, and may be an advantage for scholarships or admission to selective institutions. Endorsement requirements would include successful completion of:

  • Olathe graduation requirements
  • The academy’s identified courses
  • Yearly extension and enhancement experiences (eHours), such as program field trips, summer internships, and participating in an academic conference
  • Career and future focus activities, such as a resume, a professional portfolio, or investigating post-secondary options
  • An integrated, culminating senior-year activity, with oral and/or written presentations