Voters in the Cherry Creek School District showed their support for innovation and excellence when they passed the district's bond and budget question in 2016.
That decision is paying off in concrete ways across the district's 108 square miles, as illustrated by a presentation to the CCSD Board of Education during its regular meeting on Nov. 12 held at Altitude Elementary School. Sarah Grobbel, CCSD's Executive Director of Career and Innovation, and Mark Morgan, principal of the district's new Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, offered an in-depth view of the progress of bond-funded projects. The focus of the presentation included new innovation spaces going in at every elementary and middle school across the district, as well as the CCIC, the standalone college and career preparedness facility that's slated to open its doors to high school students from across the district in the fall of 2019.
Grobbel highlighted the innovation spaces that were completed in 15 elementary and middle schools for the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, before detailing the additional 18 schools that will be completed in the second phase of the project and the 20 schools that will be completed in the third.
The 15 completed Innovation Space are at schools across the district, and all have been designed to develop skills like collaboration, inquiry, empathy, problem-solving, curiosity, innovative thinking and passion. According to the latest academic research, as well as firsthand input from parents, teachers and other members of the CCSD community garnered during the Cherry Creek 2021 initiative, these are the skills that are integral to preparing students for a 21st-century academic and professional landscape.
Grobbel spoke about the different centralized and decentralized designs of the spaces, and stressed that each individual school chose its own final layout and specific scheme. This freedom allowed every building to meet the unique needs of their specific communities.
"We made sure that the voice of each community was heard … As we've finished our work in the Phase One schools, we continue to find inspiration from the renovations that are taking place. We're really excited about what we've created and what our Phase Two and Phase Three construction will create," Grobbel said. "Phase One gave us a good idea of what our budgets could do when it came to renovation. We went with a very equal approach."
Grobbel added that the renovations have already made a noticeable difference in instruction and classroom dynamics, and added that they've completely reinvented the dynamic in some of the district's older buildings.
"The idea is having a very open area where kids can have a lot of connectivity with each other, and with staff ... You're going to have to pass two other pathways on the way to the pathway that you start your coursework with. You have an opportunity to change your mind. People are going to have an opportunity to learn from each other."
-- Mark Morgan, principal of the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus
Mark Morgan, meanwhile, offered insights into the district's newest building, the 117,000-square-foot Cherry Creek Innovation Campus that's still under construction east of Dove Valley Regional Park. Morgan offered a broad set of updates about the CCIC's layout, curriculum and underlying mission.
For example, Morgan detailed progress in the school's offerings of more than 60 courses, all designated under professional pathways. CCIC's Advanced Manufacturing pathway will include fabrication, production and manufacturing; its Business Services pathway will include entrepreneurship, business marketing and project management; its Health and Wellness pathway will include pharmacy tech, physical therapy/occupational therapy and behavioral mental health; its Hospitality and Tourism pathway will include a student-run café, the ProStart culinary program, resort management, event planning and resort management; its IT and STEAM pathway will include cybersecurity, data science, drones, design thinking, virtual reality and robotics; and its Transportation pathway will include auto tech and aviation maintenance.
What's more, Morgan offered a preview of the facility's layout, and spoke how the design is encouraged to foster collaboration between students specializing in all different fields.
"The idea is having a very open area where kids can have a lot of connectivity with each other, and with staff," Morgan said. "You're going to have to pass two other pathways on the way to the pathway that you start your coursework with. You have an opportunity to change your mind. People are going to have an opportunity to learn from each other."
That, Morgan added, is what innovation is all about.