ridgeline computers

A student works on a computer at Ridgeline High School on Friday afternoon.

Governor Gary Herbert announced his intent to dedicate $10.2 million in his upcoming budget toward K-12 computer science education on Dec. 9.

This funding coincides with Herbert’s goal for every student in Utah to have access to computer science education by the year 2022.

“I think it’s gonna help prepare them for the future, because this is gonna be a technological world for them,” said Shalayne Bragg, a computer specialist at Heritage Elementary School. “It’s a lot different than when we were growing up.”

Students at Heritage attend a computer class with Bragg once a week, where she teaches both typing and coding.

“Coding, I think, is gonna be one of those important skills that’s gonna be necessary for a lot of them to have,” Bragg said. “Not all of them are going to go into coding necessarily, but it also teaches problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills that will help them in any field they go into.”

Xiojun Qi, the interim computer science department head at Utah State University, hopes that schools with more funding for computer science classes would use some of that money to provide more advanced placement and college-level courses for students.

“So in this way when they go to college they already have the prerequisite classes there, so they can finish the degree quicker,” Qi said.

Qi hopes that by giving students access to computer science education early on, they can discover and develop a passion for it.

“I just feel that this will help high schoolers from multiple perspectives there to know their interest in computer science computer science,” Qi said. “And hopefully they can decide to choose computer science as their major.”

The money Herbert has set aside is intended to teach students about computers in an increasingly technological world, but also to introduce computer science as a viable career option.

“Along the Wasatch Front there’s about 5,900 open computer science positions they cannot fill because they don’t have enough trained people to fill those positions,” said Tim Smith, the chief academic officer for Cache County School District. “If we thought … the sole purpose of this was to hire for the job market that’s important in and of itself.”

Brittany Foster, the principal at Ridgeline High School, hasn’t yet dealt with the struggle to fill computer science teaching positions that many other schools are facing, but she knows she could if there was an increase in computer science classes offered.

“I do know they’re hoping to get more teachers endorsed,” Foster said. “So of course that helps … to have teachers who are prepared to teach those courses. So if the programs grow, you know that’s gonna be a concern is how do we grow them if we don’t have the teaching force to support that.”

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