By University Communications, February 3, 2010
The UA Tech Park will be home to the Vail Academy and High School, a new K-12 school that will emphasize math, science and engineering through partnerships with the UA and Tech Park tenants.
Today, the Vail School District broke ground on the Vail Academy and High School, the district’s first K-12 school and the nation’s first K-12 school located at a university research park.
Vail High School began offering classes at the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park in July 1997. The Vail Academy, a K-8 school, will join the already established Vail High School at a new site in the UA Tech Park.
The UA Tech Park contributes nearly $2.5 billion annually to Pima County’s economy and is one of the region’s largest employment centers, hosting 38 business and educational organizations and employing more than 7,000 people. The Tech Park has been nationally recognized as one of the premier university research parks in North America.
The $7 million Vail Academy and High School construction is funded by a Vail School District bond and will result in a 34,000 square foot facility scheduled to open in July 2010.
The K-12 school will house 225 K-8 students and 225 high school students. Each grade level will accommodate approximately 25 students. The small class size provides an interactive environment where students receive personal attention, said Vail Academy and High School Principal Dennis Barger.
Vail High School has been educating students since 1997 at the UA Tech Park and has been labeled an Excelling School by the Arizona Department of Education for four consecutive years. It is home to students who have won state and national championships in sports and academics.
“Part of the focus of the new K-8 Academy will be to prepare kids for Vail High School. We plan on having a strong academic program and will emphasize math, science and engineering,” Barger said.
The K-12 model, Barger said, 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.
Part of the incentive for having the K-12 academy located at the UA Tech Park, Barger said, can be seen in successful partnerships Vail High School has developed with Tech Park companies.
Innovative programs include real-world business experience offered to students through part-time employment, internships and a variety of other special programs.
Already the home to Vail High School, UA South and Pima Community College, the UA Tech Park will achieve a national milestone once the K-12 school is completed.
When Vail Academy opens its doors in the fall, the UA Tech Park will be the only university research park in the country to serve students from kindergarten through college.
“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.”