‘Innovative’ Escondido school to open next school year

‘Innovative’ Escondido school to open next school year
Deputy Superintendent Leila Sackfield gave a presentation to a roomful of interested parents on Jan. 26 at Mission Middle School. Photo by Ellen Wright

ESCONDIDO — Escondido Union School District is opening a new school for elementary and middle school students called Quantum Academy.

The school will open for the 2015-16 school year starting with fourth through sixth grades and will enroll 192 students in the first year, with 64 students in each grade level.

Deputy Superintendent Leila Sackfield said the innovative curriculum will focus on technology and choice.

As part of a new funding accountability plan, Sackfield said the district’s staff has been speaking with parents, teachers, community members and stakeholders.
She said the notion of choice came up a lot in these talks.

“Here in Escondido and all across the state, parents have lots of choices in terms of how they’re going to educate their children,” Sackfield said.

She said that staff wanted to find out why students were leaving the school district for private, charter and online schools.

“The Escondido Union School District wanted to expand our potential opportunities to the community in the same way some of these other organizations have determined that they will provide choice,” Sackfield said.

The school will place a big emphasis on technology. An iPad will be available for each student to use during class time.

Future Quantum teacher Jo-Ann Fox said the iPads will be used more for content creation rather than content consumption.

Another emphasis will be on student choice. For an hour each day students will alternate between an “explore” and an “elements” class to learn more about STEAM related skills.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

The explore classes will last six weeks to give students more opportunities to explore things, according to Colin Hanel, who will be teaching at the school.

“These are just small little bites of information, looking for things that might interest them,” Hanel said.

Examples of explore curriculum would include lessons on robotics, upcycling or creating a presentation similar to the popular Ted Talks.

The elements classes will last for a trimester and will include longer-term projects, like building an aquaponics garden, videography or starting a photography blog.

“The idea of the element class is finding where your talent and your passion for learning and what you’re good at come together. When those two pieces come together, you’ve found your element,” Fox said.

The school will have students between fourth and eighth grades by 2017.

Part of the community aspect of the school will involve “grade level” classes where students from all grade levels interact to learn something new in a structured environment.

Sackfield said it can be extremely beneficial for the older students to teach the younger kids.

Guest lecturers from the community will also come to the school to teach kids STEAM related lessons.

The school will be located at the Nicolaysen Center on Falconer Road, which is attached to Orange Glen Elementary School.

Students will be chosen by a lottery system. Parents must enter their students in the lottery between Feb. 16 and March 6.

The lottery is separate from the current school of choice process and parents wishing to enter the Quantum lottery must enter it separately.

No school busses will service the school but the district will offer all of the same programs, including lunch, to students.

In the future, students whose siblings already attend the school will be given priority in the lottery.

Deputy Superintendent Sackfield said she hopes the first lottery will get 2,000 entrants.

“We anticipate it being a popular choice,” Sackfield said.

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