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Valley school districts turning to open classroom designs

Posted at 2:14 PM, Aug 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-05 17:14:31-04

PHOENIX — A new school year brings new opportunities and, in some cases, a glimpse into the classroom of the future.

The sounds of change echo across the Biltmore Prep Academy campus near 34th Street and Camelback in Phoenix as the new school year draws near. Only this year, some areas will look a lot different.

"We were fining people a dollar if they said 'classroom,'" said Superintendent of Creighton Schools Dr. Donna Lewis. "We say learning spaces."

A new name to match a new concept, turning traditional 900-square foot classrooms into flexible, open and even outside spaces. It is all designed to keep kids interacting, moving and ultimately learning in a variety of ways.

"It gives them the opportunity to make connections, socially engage with another learner, make sense of information by talking and engaging," said Dr. Lewis.

Just up the road from Biltmore Prep Academy, Creighton Elementary School is about halfway through its multi-million dollar renovation. The entire campus is moving toward that flexible, open concept.

ABC15 firstreported on the massive, $20 million project last May. It was made possible by an $85 million bond passed in 2016. New renderings detail a dramatic shift for a school that has been around since the 1880s. The transformation should be finished for the 2020-2021 school year.

The Creighton district is not the only one in the Valley trying something new.

Mesa Public Schools is also looking to move toward those flexible learning spaces. In fact, the district is holding a meeting in September to gather ideas and get community feedback.

The Chandler Unified School District is rolling out a new engineering program at Hamilton High School, while the Phoenix Union High School District is going into its first "official" year of their Academies Program at South Mountain High School. Students can pursue one of five specialized tracks in aviation and aerospace education, law studies, performing arts, visual arts or communications arts.

The Peoria Unified School District is starting something similar with its Medical Engineering Technology program. Students can now specialize in Entrepreneurship and Bioscience.