The Cherry Creek School Board of Education learned about the district's next iteration of innovation and career and technical education during its regular meeting April 10.
During the board's April meeting held at the Challenge School, CCSD Associate Superintendent Scott Siegfried and Executive Director of High School Education Sarah Grobbel offered details and progress reports regarding projects approved by voters in 2016 as part of the district's bond and budget election. Specifically, the presentation focused on the updates made possible by the passage of ballot issue 3B, which authorized the district to sell $250 million in bonds for renovations and new school construction.
Those projects include the construction of "innovation spaces" at every elementary and middle school in the district, learning areas designed to develop skills like collaboration, inquiry, empathy, problem-solving, curiosity, innovative thinking and passion. According to the latest academic research, as well as firsthand input from parents, teachers and other members of the CCSD community garnered during the Cherry Creek 2021 initiative, these are the skills that are integral to preparing students for a 21st-century academic and professional landscape.
The presentation also detailed the progress on plans for a new, standalone facility dedicated entirely to career and technical education. The new, untitled building – temporarily nicknamed the "Career and Innovation Academy" – will be open to all CCSD juniors and seniors and will expand the diverse and detailed CTE programs that are already thriving in the district.
Much remains to be finalized, but both Siegfried and Grobbel offered meaningful glimpses of what these new facilities will look like when they're completed in three years. What's more, the presentation included a general timeline for the progress of the innovation spaces and the standalone CTE facility.
" 'Innovation' is one of the newest buzzwords when it comes to education … We want to make sure that we're all talking about the same thing when we use that word."
-- Sarah Grobbel, Executive Director of High School Education for CCSD
A good deal of the presentation focused on the academic mission of the new additions, as Grobbel tackled the definition of "innovation" in regards to the new elementary and middle school spaces. Every elementary school in CCSD will receive $500,000 for the additions, and every middle school will receive $750,000. While the final form may vary from building to building and community to community, each space will encapsulate a similar focus on a specific set of skills.
" 'Innovation' is one of the newest buzzwords when it comes to education … We want to make sure that we're all talking about the same thing when we use that word," Grobbel said, adding that the word included a focus on critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, among other skills. In finalizing this definition, district leadership drew from the studies of leaders in the field of education like Dr. Tony Wagner, as well as suggestions from the entire CCSD community collected during the Cherry Creek 2021 process. "We're researching innovation and seeing what it looks like … We want to make sure that we give a good structure to our principals."
The leadership team will finalize its definitions and guidelines this month, with a template design to follow in June. In August, the first round of elementary and middle schools will be identified by feeder, with architects to be selected by second semester of 2018 and work to begin in the summer of 2018.
The timeline for work on the standalone CTE facility is similarly ambitious. The 39-acre site for the $40 million building is located near the Denver Broncos Dove Valley training facility, east of South Potomac Street in Englewood. An architect for the new building will be finalized by May of 2017. The building is slated to open in the fall of 2019.
Work is underway to finalize multiple career pathways for the new facility, and district leadership is working with educational and industry partners for input on curriculum, which will align with the Colorado Workforce Development Council standards. The school will also expand the district's current apprenticeship work with Careerwise Colorado. Mark Morgan, who is currently principal at Endeavor Academy, has been tabbed as the school's principal.
"We are engaging in all kinds of conversations both locally and nationally … We want to listen and make sure that we give further opportunities for our kids," Grobbel said. "(We're) vetting opportunities and making sure they align with our mission."
That mission includes an expanded set of opportunities for every child in the district, one that prepares them for the academic and professional demands of the future while helping them to develop multiple skill sets.
"We have to have adaptability," Cherry Creek Schools Board President Randy Perlis said. "We give them the skills where they can go into another career, where they can adjust. I think that's an integral part of this. That's what I would want for my kid that they can have a career, and have important skills if that career falls through."