CALGARY --  For the first time in more than a decade, a new charter school has been approved in Calgary.

The new school, the STEM Innovation Academy, will be for students in Grades 7-12 and aims to inspire them to be technology creators and innovators.

It's being developed by former Calgary Board of Education trustee Lisa Davis and Sarah Bieber and could be open by this September if location options work out.

“We are working on a couple of options that would enable us to be open for September so, we definitely want to get going as soon as possible,” said Davis. “I think it's fair to say that, given that the world changed permanently last March there's just some urgency with ensuring we get going and so we can start to provide some options for students to increase their knowledge.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is a driving factor in wanting to launch this school for Davis, while people have lost their jobs, others saw a benefit from the increased adoption of technology in the work place.

“(We) want to be part of a vision for Alberta that moves us forward to the next stage and recognizing that technology is the future of every industry,” Davis said. “We really have an opportunity to leverage our education system to help prepare students for options beyond high school.”

Students who attend the school will have the opportunity to explore learning about artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, virtual and augmented reality, coding and cryptocurrency in addition to the STEM-focused curriculum.

The announcement comes after the UCP government lifted the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in Alberta and brought in the Choice in Education Act, which simplified the process of applying to create a charter school.

While the process of applying has gotten easier there are still challenges that come with establishing a charter school. Davis says that what they’re doing hasn’t been done before with the STEM options at the junior high and high school level.

“Our approach to developing this curriculum in an area where technology changes, so fast, so it means that we really have to be nimble and connected to both post-secondary research advances as well as industry," Davis said.

“We'll have a very, by design a very collaborative approach with people outside of the school to ensure that our content remains leading edge,” Davisadded.

Pre-registration is open and will be on a first come, first serve basis.

With files from Ty Rothermal