A new specialty school is now being offered to incoming freshmen in the Phoenix Union High School district, a school that not only offers core classes like English, math and science, but also offers a heavy dose of computer programming and technology education.

The Phoenix Coding Academy, opening for students in the fall of 2016, is hoping to get students career-ready in their four-year high school experience, said Interim Superintendent Dr. Chad Gestson. “At the rest of our schools we want a high college-going rate, but at the Coding Academy, we want to be so good at what we do, that the college-going rate is only 1 percent, because the other 99 percent of the kids went into lucrative careers,” Gestson said.

The school will have some of the latest industry equipment, a one-to-one student-to-laptop ratio, soldering stations, programmable circuit boards, manufacturing mills and 3-D printers.

Arizona school choice

The school’s building was constructed using funds from Phoenix Union’s 2011 bond, and all of the school’s equipment is funded from the district’s capital budget, which was recently increased due to a successful override election. The plan is that the new school will attract new students to the district, offsetting the initial cost of the new school, according to Craig Pletenik, community relations manager at the Phoenix Union High School District.

Students will get to choose from four technology pathways: software development, Web development, networking and engineering. But within those pathways the student will be able to choose and guide their education to learn what they want to learn, according to the school’s principal, Seth Beute.

“Software development could be making apps, it might be games, it might be interfaces. Web development could be front-end with the user interface, or  back-end, dealing with how it connects to the Internet, and engineering will deal with robotics,” Beute said.

The students will be guiding their own education though, using the school’s resources to learn what they want to learn with the technology, according to Beute. “We will start with some of the basic concepts. If your teacher is an expert in Java and you learn the basics of Java, but if you’d rather learn C++, then that’s what you can learn, and the teacher will facilitate that learning process,” Beute said. “What we want to allow is student voice and choice in the learning process.”

The freshman class will start off by learning the basics of computer science, and exploring the four pathways that the school has to offer. Sophomore year they will pick a path and will work on the Career and Technical Education certificate through their junior year. Senior year, students will work on a capstone project of their choice, which can be anything that relates to their pathway and experience.

“In our district we usually do CTE programs junior and senior year, but here at this school we will do them sophomore and junior year, so senior year you can really dive into what you want to do,” Beute said.

The school has local industry professionals involved to help facilitate the learning experience, with CISCO and Microsoft among those involved, according to Beute. “We have a lot of industry people on board helping as mentors, guest teachers and with internship.”

Eighth-grader Carlos Hernandez said he was excited to learn that a high school option like this existed for him to possibly pursue his interests. “Coding is really just like a different language, and when it snaps for you it is very satisfying. Going to a high school that focuses on my career path is definitely going to be helpful,” Carlos said.

Students can still apply to be part of the freshman class. Parents just need to fill out an online application, and students need to write an essay about what they love to do, and why they want to attend the Coding Academy. Then there will be a final interview where prospective students are to bring in something they’ve made or are proud of, and show it off to the interviewers.

The Coding Academy is located at 4445 N. Central Ave., right off the light-rail stop by Central High School. It is 42,000 square feet and will accommodate about 400 students once the school grows to its full size.

“We are accepting 100 to 120 kids, if we have more people apply than we can take, we will do a lottery system to make it as fair as possible. If it’s a really large group, we will probably narrow it down to 150 before the lottery,” Beute said.

Applications can be found at phoenixunion.org/Page/17949.

Applications can be e-mailed to PCA@phoenixunion.org and are due by Jan. 29.


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