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Santa Fe schools launching computer science effort

SANTA FE — Santa Fe Public Schools aims to launch a district-wide computer science initiative within the next five years that it says has the potential to be a “transformative force” in the community.

The school board last week unanimously passed a resolution in support of the All Systems Go initiative “to embrace and build skills and interest in computers for all children throughout Santa Fe, with a focus on middle school students.”

The resolution states the school board recognizes the importance of computer science in 21st century education and directs the superintendent to establish stakeholder groups to assist with planning of a three- to five-year plan to implement the Computer Science Association K-12 computer science standards.

“We have a fairly strong infrastructure to support computer science in our district,” Superintendent Veronica García said this week. “Kids in elementary school are already doing coding and robotics, and we want to strengthen pathways at the middle school level.”

García said computer science is a subject many students get excited about.

“When they’re building apps and understanding what’s behind the computer games they play, it really turns them on.”

Improvements to the school district’s technology infrastructure are largely due to an property-tax supported Education Technology Note approved by voters in 2016 that is expected to raise about $55 million over five years. That has allowed the school district to connect every school in the district with high-speed internet access and provide every student in seventh grade and above with computing devices as part of the district’s five-year Digital Learning Plan.

García noted that last year Santa Fe High School was one of just 18 schools in New Mexico that offered Advanced Placement course in computer science.

She said the initiative will help prepare high schoolers for jobs that require computer skills once they graduate. “That’s where the jobs are,” García said.

The resolution says the demand for jobs in the computing field is 4.5 times higher than the average rate for other types of jobs.

A news release says starting salaries for jobs in technology and computer science in the Santa Fe area range between $68,000 and $77,287 per year, compared to New Mexico’s average salary of $43,170.

The resolution was introduced by school board member Kate Noble, who used to head economic development efforts for the city of Santa Fe. “My goal is for Santa Fe Public Schools to usher in a big initiative that pushes learning forward and creates coalescence in the community,” she said in the news release.

The school district will be turning to community partners to help fund the initiative. The school board has already allocated $250,000 from one-time capital funds to computer science initiatives.

Some funding could come from the LANL Foundation, which has expressed support for the initiative. “SFPS is recognizing that the skills students will require in their future jobs, in civic engagement and as creative members of the community compels us to rethink and move forward with our understanding of teaching and learning,” Gwen Perea Warniment, K-12 program director at the LANL Foundation, said in the news release.

The resolution says the All systems Go initiative would be launched “in alignment with the city of Santa Fe.”