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Friday, January 11, 2019

Staunton High School will offer advanced cloud computing courses next year - Staunton News Leader

With input from Amazon Web Services, educators at Staunton's Lee High School are developing advanced computer science classes that will be open to students next year.

School officials decided to add cloud computing classes to Staunton High School's offerings after receiving a state planning grant last summer and discussing job growth with industry professionals. They hope the courses will give students competitive tech skills to take to the workforce or college after graduation.

“It’s been daunting. It’s taken quite a bit of work to put together, but we’re excited about the possibilities,” said Lee High Principal Nate Collins.

School officials wanted to design a program that would give students useful, concrete experiences, Collins said. The new computer science pathway will include Cloud Computing I, Cloud Computing II and AP Computer Science.

Related: Staunton Innovation Hub sees potential for economic growth through mobile tech

The classes will be competency-based, so students will develop mastery of certain skills as they progress through the course, he said. They will also each have their own laptop to work on tasks anytime outside of class in an effort to mirror the independent workflow of many real-life programming jobs.

Thanks to a parent's connection with Amazon Web Services — an Amazon subsidiary and the world’s largest cloud services provider — the school is using the company's expertise to plan the courses.

Educators have met with Amazon to discuss what skills entry-level employees in their field need and will visit the facility this spring, Collins said. Plus, they're examining cloud computing programs the company developed with Northern Virginia Community College and a California community college for inspiration.

The school has worked with Blue Ridge Community College, its higher education partner in the grant, to ensure their curricula match up and that students' credit for the AP course transfers to the college.

Blue Ridge Community College President John Downey said they hope these classes will develop student interest in the field so graduates can go on to earn an associate degree or certification if they choose and, eventually, use these skills to work remotely from the Valley.

"We’re actually hoping from an economic development standpoint that those jobs can be done right here in the Valley so that people live here and work here," Downey said. "I think the Valley is well-positioned for those types of arrangements."

Widespread adoption of cloud services is relatively new, and the industry is booming.

“I would imagine that everyone, in some way or another, is dealing with cloud computing probably multiple times a day, if not multiple times an hour,” said Kyle Chard, a senior researcher and fellow at the University of Chicago’s Computation Institute.

Related: Chromebooks will aid Shelburne Middle School students this academic year

Cloud computing “provides a simple way to access servers, storage, databases and a broad set of application services over the Internet” without relying on hardware, according to Amazon Web Services.

Most phone services use cloud platforms, Chard said. Google Drive, Apple iCloud and DropBox are familiar examples of cloud computing, but the field includes more specialized services as well.

Jobs in cloud computing are as wide-ranging as cloud technologies and include everything from working on infrastructure to building applications and developing software, Chard said. 

And the number of job opportunities is increasing rapidly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that computer and information technology occupations will add 557,100 new jobs in the U.S. by 2026, primarily driven by cloud computing, data storage and information security.

Plus, Amazon's new headquarters in Arlington will add about full-time 25,000 jobs to the area, the company announced in a fall 2018 news release.

This summer, Staunton High School will have the opportunity to receive another grant to implement this program. It is one of five high schools that got a $50,000 first-year planning grant from Governor Ralph Northam in July 2018.

The grants are intended for schools to create programs that match graduation requirements, prioritize personalized learning and use assessments to track student performance, according to a summer 2018 press release.

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