BY FREDA MIKLIN
Located near Centennial Airport in Dove Valley, on 40 acres in the middle of the 108-square mile Cherry Creek School District (CCS), the shiny new glass-walled Cherry Creek Innovation Campus (CCIC) is a unique and important addition to CCS’ options for its high school students. CCS serves over 55,000 students from diverse backgrounds. A ribbon-cutting will take place Thursday, August 31 at 3 p.m. at the school, located at 8000 S. Chambers Road, Centennial, CO 80012.
The 117,000-square foot building, with a program geared toward juniors and seniors, will open on Aug. 12 with 1,100 students from across the district. It is “a stand-alone college and career preparedness facility…with curriculum rooted in real-world skills and trade certifications…that will offer students a new kind of bridge to college and viable, successful careers.” The school carries a price tag of about $60 million. It will have a School Resource Officer (sworn law enforcement officer), security personnel on campus, and a full-time licensed school nurse. School buses will provide transportation for CCS students to and from their home high schools. Parking is available for those who wish to drive. Though the program is designed to work with core classes at students’ home school, some of the pathways will include credits in English and math.
CCIC Principal Mark Morgan told The Villager that the programs offered are geared to three different types of students: 1) those who are college-bound and using the courses as concurrent enrollment (classes taken in high school that earn college credit); 2) those who are planning to enter the workforce or the military after high school and are seeking marketable skills and certifications; 3) those who are not certain of their post-high school plans and wish to explore possibilities.
In its first year, CCIC will offer classes in eight different pathways: health and wellness, IT and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), transportation: automotive, transportation: aviation, hospitality and tourism, advanced manufacturing, business services and infrastructure engineering. Some courses are yearlong and some are semester courses.
The health and wellness pathway includes initial preparatory classes for careers as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, registered nurse, pharmacist, social worker, counselor, psychiatrist and health science educator. It will also offer preparation for industry certifications as a certified nursing assistant, Behavioral health technician, pharmacy technician and in CPR/First Aid, AED. Simulated exam rooms will have high-fidelity mannequins. Future pharmacy technicians will learn about compounding medicines, inventory control and point-of-sale requirements for dispensing prescriptions. There are 308 students ready to start in this pathway when school starts Aug. 12.
The infrastructure engineering pathway includes initial preparatory classes for careers as an electrician, carpenter, plumber, roofer, drywaller, landscaper, forklift operator and HVAC technician. Students in that program will build tiny homes that will be used in Denver, using a 15-ton capacity bright yellow Wazee Crane. The garage doors for the construction facility are built to accommodate two 18-wheel trucks. Next year CCIC plans for its students to build 1,300-square foot modular homes.
The transportation pathway will prepare students for future careers as automotive technicians and aircraft mechanics, including the ability to earn an FAA mechanic certificate. To learn the necessary skills, CCIC has acquired a 1962 Mooney M20 airplane, a 1964 Piper Cherokee airplane and a 1981 Robinson Light Duty Helicopter that are no longer flightworthy on which students can practice.
The hospitality and tourism pathway, which is designed for concurrent enrollment with Metro State University of Denver, will include a realistic training kitchen, fully visible behind glass, where you can see students making their own jellies, jams, and sausage that will be offered in the CCIC Café, where breakfast and lunch will be served.
The business services pathway is focused on project management and entrepreneurial skills. Students in the IT & STEAM program will have the opportunity to explore the data sciences, leading to future careers as a network administrator, data analyst or IT support specialist, as well as a mechanical or computer engineer. They will also be able to explore virtual reality technology, robotics including drones and cybersecurity, a fast-growing field where certifications without college degrees are increasingly recognized by employers.
One of Morgan’s goals is to actively break down gender biases associated with professions by exposing students to multiple possibilities. Virtually every inside wall in the building is made of (noise-limiting) glass so that every student can see what other students are working on that might pique their interest.
Morgan says, “Our most important asset has been our relationship with community stakeholders, who have worked with us from day one.” Industry partners, an important component at CCIC, include Micron Industries, who helped design, set up, and provide equipment in the advanced manufacturing pathway. Snap-On Tools helped design and equip the nine-bay car repair facility for the transportation: automotive pathway. Health One helped develop CCIC’s program, the first of its kind in Colorado, for the behavioral and mental health technician, which will lead to a certification. Spartan Aviation is CCIC’s partner in the transportation: aviation pathway.
The school was designed by architect DLR Group of Denver. JHL Constructors Inc. is the builder. Interested students can contact the school at 720-554-2600.