Fulton, Gasconade school districts join computer science development partnership

A San Francisco-based comprehensive teaching platform announced Monday that 19 Missouri school districts have been selected to receive help in getting computer science programs up and running over the next two school years - more school districts and for a longer time than initially expected.

Fulton Public Schools and the Gasconade County R-1 School District are among the districts CodeHS has partnered with to participate in "Code Missouri" for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

CodeHS announced the Code Missouri initiative last year at a computer science summit in St. Louis.

"This is the first region-specific initiative that we launched," CodeHS CEO and co-founder Jeremy Keeshin said Tuesday.

"CodeHS is committed to helping close the computer science opportunity gap between urban and rural districts in Missouri," according to a news release. "Coding is a new foundational skill and all students deserve the opportunity to take computer science courses at their local schools."

School districts that were selected to be part of Code Missouri will receive free access to grades six through 12 web-based computer science curriculum, professional development training for teachers, CodeHS Pro accounts and ongoing support.

"The big goal of the program is to ensure that the programs are sustainable and successful," Keeshin said. He said his organization ultimately thought one year would be enough time to jumpstart a program and keep it going, so the partnerships were expanded from one school year - as previously announced last fall - to two years.

In terms of including more school districts than the initial proposal of 15, he said, "I think part of it was we had a lot more districts (apply) than we thought."

More than 40 school districts applied to be part of the program.

"At the moment, that hasn't been shared yet as a major hurdle," Keeshin said of any challenges with a possible lack of high-speed internet in rural areas.

"If we're finding that that's a huge issue, then we'll have to make an adaptation," he added, explaining there is a light version of their software that takes up less bandwidth.

He said, though, there were questions in school district's applications to the program that asked about their internet infrastructure capacity.

"It'll be likely that most (districts) will be doing an introductory course" before more advanced Advanced Placement computer science courses, he said of initial offerings. "What we're trying to do is keep things similar across the districts so that they can easily collaborate with each other, so there's a community of districts."

He added CodeHS's hope is to eventually include more Missouri school districts in the program, but a high-quality experience for the first 19 districts is the priority now.

"We're going to work really collaboratively with the schools," he said.

He also said CodeHS is looking into starting similar regional initiatives in Oregon and the Stockton, California, area.

The Boonville R-1 and Fayette R-3 school districts are also among the 19 Missouri districts selected - Code Missouri hosted a pilot program at Fayette High School.

According to the news release, 500,000 students in 7,000 classrooms use CodeHS every month.