School board approves computer science immersion program

Published: Feb. 27, 2017 at 10:42 PM CST
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The Sioux Falls School District is going where no other South Dakota school district has gone before.

The board voted unanimously to sign a 5-year contract to create a computer science immersion program at three elementary schools in the district.

Jobs are continuing to grow in the computer science field and to help give students a leg up, the Sioux Falls School District is partnering with the company Code to the Future to immerse students in a second language, computer coding in Java.

This data security class is filled with students with students making some big plans for the future, like Jordan Oberg.

“One day I hope to get a job in the FBI or the CIA,” Oberg stated.

And there will be many openings to fill when these kids enter the work force.

“In Sioux Falls specifically we definitely need more people with a technical skill set and that kind of an education,” DocuTAP CIO Brad Reimer said.

But Reimer says there's another reason why students should get comfortable with code.

“Nationwide you're just going to continue to see the computer science program just continue to expand and it will just be part of everything that everybody does,” he explained.

“I think it's even becoming a foundational skill in our student population,” Sioux Falls School District superintendent Dr. Brian Maher said.

The Computer Science Immersion program is going to cost the district $1,264,000 over five years.

The contract itself is almost all professional development that's over 500 days of professional development for our staff,” Maher said.

And another quarter million for equipment.

The program is centered around critical thinking.

“This isn't a new curriculum that our teachers are going to have to learn, rather there are a lot of different activities that our teachers are going to have to learn,” Maher explained.

Oberg says those skills could help him in all areas of school.

“You use problem solving skills to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and just having those skills might have made it easier for me to go through all of education just in general,” Oberg said.

Superintendent Maher didn’t announce which schools will have the immersion program, but he did say he wants to improve equity and access when it comes to the district's specialized programs.

In the fall of 2019 the district hopes to include two middle schools in this immersion program.

In five years the district will take a look at possibly expanding it to the high school level.