From the building layout to the student seats, most everything at the Marana Unified School District’s new computer science school is built with the future in mind. The Dove Mountain CSTEM K-8 School, located at 5650 W. Moore Road in Marana, is nearing completion, and set to open for the first day of school on Aug. 5.
The CSTEM school (computer science, technology, engineering and math) is designed to immerse students in computer coding to prepare them for a more technology-based future. The school features a “zSpace” lab, which includes both augmented reality and virtual reality lessons for students. There are also multiple “maker spaces” for hands-on learning and 3D printing. Every student will also be equipped with a personal Chromebook.
“The school provides an opportunity that’s not out there in Tucson,” said Andrea Divijak, CSTEM school principal. “The schools and school districts of the future will be following this model.”
Construction is planned to finish June 28. Furniture and final touches will be installed throughout July, and teachers will begin setting up their classrooms starting July 24. With applications being accepted since 2018, there are now 700 students enrolled for the school. According to MUSD director of public relations Tamara Crawley, the building can hold up to 900. But with additional construction, the school lot could hold another 500 students beyond that.
The new building features three wings: Pre-kindergarten to second grade, third to fifth grade and sixth to eighth grade. With a central hallway, or arroyo, connecting every wing of the school, younger students can literally look up to the classes they will enter in the future.
According to Bob Erickson, program manager with Corgan architecture and design firm, the school’s layout is designed to promote interaction. Each classroom has a sliding door that can open access to an adjoining hallway for flexible room space. Adjacent classrooms also feature traditional whiteboards that can rotate between the two rooms. Even certain indoor closets and utility rooms have windows, so students can see process of where their air conditioning and internet comes from, rather than only the result.
“The building itself is a learning tool,” Erickson said. “It’s an evolution of education itself.”
With all of the technology and tools presented to them, students at the school can turn their ideas in the classroom into 3D models in the computer lab and finally into physical objects in the makerspace.
Outside of computer and coding classes, the new school will feature traditional physical education and arts classes, as well as sports opportunities for middle school students. In the central amphitheater, there is also space for gardening classes and a tortoise habitat. Classrooms also have direct access to outdoor access for exterior learning.
“We still teach the basic skills like other schools, but we’re preparing students for an unknown future,” said MUSD superintendent Doug Wilson. “It’s highly technology-based.”
Another part of planning for the future, the school includes several environmentally conscious adaptations. Every classroom includes occupancy sensors, so the lights and air conditioning won’t run in empty rooms. Construction teams also plan on installing solar panels over the parking lot later this summer. These panels are expected to provide roughly 80 percent of the building’s energy.
The school will also offer the same programs and services provided in other Marana district schools, such as free full-day kindergarten, preschool and before and after school care.
Computer science program opportunities for students include participating in Code to the Future and Odyssey of the Mind.
“Our students will be using technology to create and not just consume,” Divijak said. “Instead of asking our students ‘what do you want to be when you grow up,’ we’re asking them, ‘what problem do you want to solve?’”
The Dove Mountain CSTEM K-8 School’s grand opening and ribbon cutting, including school tours, will take place 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 23. 5650 W. Moore Road. For more information, visit maranausd.org/newk8school.