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New charter school focuses on STEM for junior and high school students

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A new charter school slated to open in the fall will cater to students drawn to studies in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

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Co-founder Lisa Davis, a former Calgary Board of Education trustee, announced the launch of STEM Collegiate Canada on Wednesday at the public charter school’s future home on 47 Street and 52 Avenue, in southeast Edmonton’s Pylypow Industrial neighbourhood.

Besides providing an education designed to help students pursue higher learning and careers in STEM-related fields, STEM Collegiate is open to working with industry partners to ensure technology offerings are up to date, Davis said, adding that the school will also maintain relationships with post -secondary institutions such as NAIT, which will help develop the curriculum and provide access to industry experts.

“A big part of what we’re doing is helping students explore how this technology is used in real world applications,” Davis said. “Our students will not just be technology users, but they will be technology creators and innovators.”

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Located in an office space complex known as Prospect Place, STEM Collegiate will occupy the main floor of the westernmost building and aims to open to Grade 7 through Grade 9 students in fall 2022.

The school will initially welcome about 100 students, Davis said, and eventually accommodate approximately 450 students once it’s in full swing.

STEM Collegiate also plans to open to high school students beginning with Grade 10 in the 2023-24 school year before expanding to Grade 11 in 2024 and Grade 12 in 2025.

Davis said the school is still looking at some “creative options” to house classes for the higher-level grades, and plans to make high school elective classes available online for any Alberta student to access in 2023.

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Over the next three years, Alberta’s 2022 budget has dedicated $72 million — including $25 million in operating funds and $47 million in capital spending — to support the expansion and creation of charter schools and collegiate programs, particularly those geared toward STEM studies and trades.

In Alberta, charter schools are public schools that deliver a basic education in a “different or enhanced way,” do not charge tuition, and cannot deny access to students — space and resources permitting. According to the province, collegiate schools are supported by post-secondary and industry partners and provide students pathways to higher learning as well as career options in high demand.

The school’s website says students in junior high will have access to courses in design, engineering, media and computational thinking, while those in Grade 10 will have the option of studying one of four clusters of courses: computers and information technology, design and communications, engineering and technologies, and health and life sciences. Davis said the school is still developing its high school elective classes.

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The high school also promises to feature a “fab lab,” or digital fabrication facility linked to 2,000 labs in more than 120 countries for global collaboration. Davis referred to it as a “makerspace on steroids” that allows for rapid prototyping.

“You’ll have 3D printers, you’ll have laser cutters, you’ll have robotics, you’ll have a whole host of technology,” she said, adding that it will allow students a hands-on opportunity to apply their knowledge .

The school is currently accepting registrations for junior high classes in the fall and organizing information sessions on May 25 and June 6.

hissawi@postmedia.com

@hamdiissawi

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