With much excitement in the air, the Marana Unified School District was joined by community supporters and elected officials last week to churn some dirt on the district’s first K-8 school.
MUSD’s new “K-8 CSTEM School,” located on West Moore Road just west of North Dove Mountain Boulevard, is expected to open in time for the fall 2019 semester. The school’s initial capacity is set for 750 students.
Marana Superintendent Doug Wilson said that the district has long been at the forefront of technology utilization, so the development of the new school is just another way for MUSD to “push the envelope” in terms of using technology to better the educational experience.
“We continue to look at this as an opportunity the ensure that we’re transitioning our education in a way that is really preparing kids for the future,” Wilson said. “And quite honestly, we really don’t know what the future looks like. So, we have to do a lot more problem-solving, and a lot more designing around technology. Not that technology will ever take the place of our outstanding teachers, but it’s here to enhance the learning experience and help students engage.”
Wilson addressed more than 50 members of the MUSD and local community last Friday, May 19, during a groundbreaking ceremony at the school site.
Tom Carlson, the district’s governing board president, said at the event that Wilson and his staff have “forged a vision” that includes the use of technology and have since worked to implement that vision in all Marana schools.
The district has already begun directly infusing technology into its classrooms via the Code To The Future program. A science and computer immersion program, Code To The Future works with teachers and staff to provide students with skills necessary to operate in an increasingly technological world. The program is already up and running at Gladden Farms Elementary, Marana Middle School, Quail Run Elementary and Tortolita Middle School. Students are taught comprehensive curriculum in which computer science is mixed into lessons from core studies “to create an engaging, interactive and fun learning environment,” according to district materials.
Students at the new school will also benefit from learning labs that will facilitate virtual reality environments for hands-on experiments and experiences. The labs also have maker-space areas, outdoor learning spaces and a media room.
At the helm of Marana’s new science venture will be current Quail Run Elementary School Principal Andrea Divijak, who first joined MUSD in 2010 as an assistant principal at Marana Middle School. After four years at the middle school, where she was also the athletic director, Divijak made her way to Quail Run. While there she helped integrate the Code To The Future into the curriculum.
Divijak said she was fortunate to help Marana youth prepare for their future.
“Coding and computers are just so much a part of what our kids will become and what they know,” Divijak said. “It doesn’t matter what career they’re going to go into, they’re going to need that computer background and that basic understanding of what coding is—and how they can use that to better their jobs and their lives.”
Divijak was handed the first ceremonial shovel at last week’s groundbreaking ceremony. She said she gets chills every time she thinks about being given the opportunity to open a new school.
Being in charge of the district’s first K-8 school also comes with high expectations. Divijak said she is excited to take on the challenge of helping mold young minds into successful adults.
“We’re going to have learners that are really engaged in their learning because it’s going to be exciting, it’s going to appeal to them as 21st century learners,” she said. “They’re going to be ready for high school and beyond. They’re going to learn what it means to be part a small and larger community within school boundaries and within the larger community.”
The MUSD governing board will conduct public meetings to discuss boundaries and attendance area of the new school during the coming year, and Wilson told Tucson Local Media the school will have open-enrollment slots—meaning students from outside the official boundaries or district can attend. Though the initial enrollment cap is set for 750, Wilson said the school will be built in wings, the second of which would allow for an additional 250 students.