By Lynette Norris Greene Publishing, Inc. The inaugural class of the new James Madison Preparatory High School has just completed its very first semester and begun the second. And if the second semester is anything like the first, it will be a busy one. JMPHS is a charter public high school, focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, which opened last September for its first class of ninth grade students. Next year, it will add tenth grade and accept a new class of ninth graders. The following year it will add eleventh grade and the year after that, it will have all four grades. Each grade has or will have spaces available for 50 students, for a school total of 200 by the school year 2016-2017. Besides having a rigorous curriculum in STEM courses, the very first class has been busy with other activities as well. The class has been on about four field trips so far. Sept. 6, they were guests of the League of Cities in Tallahassee, and a couple of weeks later they returned to Tallahassee for a tour of the Capitol Building and a meeting with State Representative Halsey Beshears, whose district includes Madison. On their two most recent trips during December, they toured the new hospital under construction literally in their own backyard, and also visited Valdosta State University. If there are any among them leaning toward a career in the growing field of health care professions, watching the new hospital go up next to their school and touring the new state-of-the art hospital facility with construction supervisor Don Horne must have been quite a treat. Perhaps some even imagined working there someday, and they just might. The new hospital is close to completion and due to be operational within a few months – plenty of time for any students so inclined to graduate from JMPHS, go to college and return to their community as nurses, clinicians, specialists, lab pathologists, x-ray technicians, or any of several other professions their STEM-focused curriculum is preparing them for now. At Valdosta State University, they toured the campus and visited the planetarium. With renovations in 2011 and state-of-art digital projection equipment, the VSU planetarium presents incredibly detailed views of distant planets using NASA images, and can digitally create optical illusions like black holes swallowing the overhead domed ceiling. It sounds like an exciting trip for any high school student who loves science, particularly if he or she is a budding astronomer, astrophysicist or geoscientist. One might think that they would have no time left over for play, but many of the JMPHS students participate in team sports with Madison County High School. During the past semester, the school has had boys on the Cowboys football team and on the basketball team, girls on the volleyball team and the softball team, and boys on the golf team and baseball teams. The second semester has another field trip in store for the students, this time to Florida State University in Tallahassee, Feb. 8. Most importantly, JMPHS will hold a Community Open House for prospective, interested future students and their parents on Thursday, Feb. 27, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Open House will include a tour of the school, with an informational meeting and question-and-answer session afterward, explaining the application process, the school requirements and rules, the curriculum and anything else parents and prospective students need to know. Since the school is a public chartered school, there is no tuition, but each grade will have only 50 seats available. Prospective students need to fill out applications for those seats. If there are more applications than seats available, the new students will be chosen in a lottery. Students and their parents who are interested and think that JMPHS might be the right place for them are encouraged to mark their calendars and attend the Open House.