UCC breaks ground on technology and skilled trades-focused middle school

Acosta Middle School building will open next year

A rendering of the new school building at 1038 S. 6th St.

The United Community Center held a groundbreaking ceremony today to celebrate the start of construction on a technology and skilled trades-focused charter school building on Milwaukee’s south side.

The new Acosta Middle School building, located at 1038 S. 6th St., is slated to open in the fall of 2018. It will feature spaces that encourage creative and hands-on learning, including labs, woodshop stations, a technology center and a space for students to practice rain gardening, UCC officials said.

Acosta Middle School, which is chartered through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, opened in the fall 2016 at UCC’s Walter Sava Learning Center, 615 W. Washington St. in Walker’s Point. This year, the school has 115 students in sixth- and seventh-grade.

Officials expect the new building to house 250 students by 2021-22.

The school’s curriculum includes computer coding, programming and pre-engineering classes, an emphasis on trades like carpentry and electrical engineering, project-based learning, and genius hour, which allows students to learn about topics that interest them.

Tim Sheehy, president of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, called the school a “tremendous gift to the business community.”

“It’s our hope that these young kids are going to become nimble, lifelong learners,” Sheehy said. “The fact that you’ve got science, technology, engineering and math embedded in this curriculum is really a bonus for employers in this community. This is what’s going to continue to make us successful and prosperous.”

Principal Santiago Navarro said the school’s STEM curriculum exposes students to possible career paths that will help inform their decisions post-high school.

“Were trying to pique the students’ interest on possible careers down the road, so they’re learning things like carpentry, trade skills, but at the same time we’re exposing them to technical skills because a lot of jobs of the future aren’t yet created,” Navarro said.

Valarie Vincent, a seventh-grader at Acosta Middle School, said her school’s curriculum is different because it includes lab experiments that “make learning actually fun.” She will be among the school’s first graduating class next year.

“Now we get a new school for our learning opportunities,” she said. “And now a lot more students can be educated here.”

Ray Allen, the state’s secretary of workforce development, said the middle school will help prepare future workers for positions at companies in Wisconsin, such as Foxconn.

“We’re going to get (the workers) because you have the foresight and the vision and the commitment to develop a school that trains young people for the jobs of the future,” Allen said.

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