Tucson K-12 school to be housed at UA Science & Technology Park
Scott Aronowitz, The Journal, February 18, 2010
The Vail School District of Vail, AZ has announced it has broken ground on a K-12 facility located inside the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park in Tucson. The district said Vail Academy and High School (VAHS) will be the first in the nation to be housed at a university research park.
Slated to open this summer, the 34,000 VAHS facility is being constructed using funds from a school district bond, at an estimated cost of roughly $7 million. With 225 students in grades K through 8 and 225 high school students, the comparatively low capacity will allow for comparatively small class size, which in turn will offer students greater personalized attention than they would likely receive in traditional public schools. The existing Vail High School has operated in the UA Park since 1997, and the new facility, with its corresponding educational program, is designed to carve a consistent, STEM-focused educational path for a student’s entire K-12 career.
“Part of the focus of the new K-8 Academy will be to prepare kids for Vail High School,” said VAHS Principal Dennis Barger. “We plan on having a strong academic program and will emphasize math, science and engineering.” He went on to explain that the K-12 model allows the curriculum to build on the previous grades’ teaching, which provides a consistent educational foundation and the development of vast knowledge around important concepts.
A key factor in the decision to locate the school in a science and technology park, Barger said, is the potential for partnerships with companies operating in the UA Park. The high school has already realized the benefits of several such partnerships, with students gaining real-world experience through internships, part-time employment after school and on weekends, and other programs through which the local business community actively promotes the development of a more STEM-savvy workforce.
“The new school will provide opportunities for even the youngest of students to see science and technology as approachable, understandable and fun,” said Bruce Wright, UA associate vice president for university research parks. “That means our youth have an opportunity that few others in the country do, to see the world of technology not as something that is mysterious and remote, but as a welcoming environment where they can be involved in many different ways.”