With the vote yesterday by the Virginia Department of Education, the Academy of Technology and Innovation at the University of Mary Washington (ATI-UMW) has been approved to open in fall 2024.
The regional high school and lab school could serve students from Stafford, King George and Caroline counties as well as Fredericksburg City Schools and potentially more areas. It pools the expertise of local school districts with the University of Mary Washington’s College of Education, creating a one-of-a-kind public high school focused on computer and data science, teaching excellence and career readiness.
“It’s exciting to be at the point where the school has been approved and is recruiting students. It’s a testament to the commitment and hard work of the many individuals across the region who have come together to create the vision for ATI-UMW, and we’re happy to be collaborating with them on this and so many other opportunities to improve K-12 education in the Fredericksburg region,” said UMW Provost Tim O’Donnell.
When the school opens in fall 2024, it will enroll up to 100 ninth-graders from the partner school districts. Students will be selected via a lottery in January. Applications opened Nov. 15 and close in early January. Current eighth-graders who are interested in computer science, data science, cybersecurity, digital design and related fields are encouraged to apply. No prior experience or courses are necessary.
Students and families are invited to an Open House at ATI-UMW on the Stafford Campus of the University of Mary Washington on Tuesday, Dec. 5, from 5 to 7 p.m., to learn more. Families can also sign up for more information at atiumw.org.
The school passes on no additional costs to students or families. Start-up funding comes from the state, as well as investments from UMW, including an existing school location at the Stafford Campus. The South Building at UMW’s Stafford Campus will be reimagined as a high school and demonstration site. Students will attend for their full school day but return to their home high school for athletic and extracurricular activities.
Academy of Technology and Innovation at the University of Mary Washington Executive Director Rebecca Towery“Students will learn how to incorporate computer science and data science into whatever they are passionate about, whatever matters to them,” said ATI-UMW Executive Director Rebecca Towery, who joined the proposed school earlier this year. “ATI-UMW offers a smaller, focused learning environment in a college-like setting with a comprehensive curriculum designed to include what students need for their career or college plan. Through personalized pathways, we’ll equip students to own their learning, build portfolios and collaborate to solve real world challenges.”
UMW and Stafford County Public Schools were awarded a College Partnership Laboratory School (Lab School) Planning Grant from the Virginia Department of Education in 2022. The $200,000 grant provided the initial funding for stakeholder engagement and planning, hiring an executive director, building organizational capacity and developing the curriculum, which will focus on the in-demand fields of computer and data sciences. The school is applying for millions of dollars in start-up funding and support from the Virginia Department of Education.
Next up will be hiring the staff, who will work closely with UMW College of Education faculty. The proposed professional development school model pulls in the expertise of University of Mary Washington professors, creating a teaching incubator for educators. Founded in 1908 and serving for many years as a state teachers’ college, UMW continues to educate educators for the next generation, and this partnership maintains that mission.
“We are excited to work alongside Dr. Towery to develop the kind of school where we want our students in the College of Education to have their formative teaching experiences. ATI-UMW will serve as a demonstration site for high-quality, innovative teaching practices like hands-on problem-solving learning, and it will be a great place to learn to teach,” said UMW College of Education Dean Pete Kelly.
In addition to offering an innovative learning experience for students and teaching opportunities, the school also connects to the community. It will draw from the expertise of area economic development authorities and local businesses including existing partners at Dahlgren and Quantico, with a goal of designing quality internship and mentoring programs.
For more information, visit atiumw.org.