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New HS uniquely ready for pandemic

Robot helps teachers in remote STEM classes
A look at a brand new high school in Vail that’s more than ready to take on the challenges of the pandemic.
Posted at 6:15 AM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 08:57:26-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Principal Nemer Hassey's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

The first day of learning for students at Mica Mountain HS is not what anyone could have imagined when the district broke ground on the facility.

A teacher talking to her students in an empty classroom.

Principal Nemar Hassey is champing at the bit to get going in a traditional school setting. When the doors do open it’ll be easier to socially distance.

Here’s why.

“We have two hallways in the entire school. We’re a wide open campus. All our classrooms surround what we call a collaboration space and so our classrooms don't have hallways and the space has furniture in it,” said Hassey.

They are extensions of the classroom that allows students to be spread out.

What also helps – the school is built for 1100 students and right now they have half that count by design because of continued construction.

“We also have a huge open courtyard campus and it's all one story and everything has an outside entrance. Having that big open campus really helps for that physical distance in that we might have to do here, you know, in the near future,” said Hassey.

Mica Mountain is a comprehensive high school — meaning not only are traditional, advanced and elective courses offered, students can also take CTE classes ranging from culinary to engineering. That requires hands-on learning, which is a bit of a challenge in CTE and also STEM classes during remote learning.

Hassey says teachers have that covered.For instance, for our science teachers, they are just getting started, but they will eventually put kits together for the kids to pick up to do labs and to try to extend that to the home,” said Hassey.

Teachers are using Schoology – one of the many remote learning systems to keep students engaged — that are now in demand. The district also invested in technology that helps teachers move around the room to demonstrate any hands-on lessons.

“It’s a robot that will follow the teacher. So my science teacher could do the lab show the hands-on part while not just being in front of a computer but moving about the room,” he said.

It’s all recorded with an IPAD and uploaded to Schoology.

“And the students can then look at it and then do the lab follow their directions that way. That’s not as good as in person, but we're trying to do the best we can,” said Hassey.

The principal says he expects to bring in small groups of students for hands-on sessions within the next few weeks.