Growth and Opportunity in Virginia (GO Virginia), a statewide economic development initiative based in Richmond, has granted the Loudoun Education Foundation $2.4 million for its K-12 Computer Science Pipeline program in Loudoun County Public Schools and Chesapeake Public Schools.
LEF's two-year project will focus on integrating computer science and computational thinking skills across the curriculum for students of all ages. LCPS officials say the Computer Science Pipeline program is named for the "sustainable pipeline of graduates" LEF hopes to prepare for computer-science careers.
The gift from GO Virginia announced at a Dec. 9 meeting in Richmond will fund the grades 6-12 portion of the program. LEF's application for the grant was accompanied by letters of support from regional economic development organizations, several technology firms, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D) and Chesapeake Mayor Rick West.
"This generous grant strengthens our ability to fulfill our mission of empowering all students to make meaningful contributions to the world," LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams said in a prepared statement.
Dawn Meyer, executive director of LEF, told the Times-Mirror the organization would have to use funds to benefit two school districts in Virginia to be eligible for competitive grant funding.
"We chose [Chesapeake] because they have an amazing superintendent," Meyer said. "We felt like it would work well with him, and we were correct."
Chesapeake Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton, to whom Meyer referred as an "innovator," said in a prepared statement he is "excited about the experiences this grant will provide for our students," adding his confidence that the Computer Science Pipeline program will accommodate "a growing need for a well-developed workforce skilled in computer science and technological applications."
According to LCPS officials, only 15 percent of LCPS students and 2 percent of CPS students — 900 students total — were enrolled in advanced high school computer science courses last school year.
With the new funding, LEF plans to provide professional development for teachers and create a database of procedures for integrating computer-science activities and computational thinking into students' core curriculum.
"Computer science education will prepare students to work in technology jobs like cybersecurity, computer services and data analytics – not to mention the tech jobs of the future that these students will be creating as future industry leaders," LEF President and Chairman Scott Miller said in a prepared statement. "The program creates a long-term systemic solution for today's technology workforce crisis and develops a pipeline for our future industry leaders."
Through the program, students in both school systems will also participate in problem-solving activities including the design, building, programming and testing of robots to perform various tasks.
Finally, GO Virginia's grant will support LCPS hiring a supervisor of computer science and an experiential learning specialist. A single computer science coordinator will fill both roles within CPS, a smaller division. Both divisions will hire Computer Science Facilitators to directly assist teaching staff in integrating computer-science standards.
The Loudoun Education Foundation has given more than $9 million to support Loudoun's students and faculty since it was established in 1991.