The grant, worth up to $1 million depending on the size of the school system, will bring a computer coding curriculum, teacher preparation and training through Smith, who will move with his family to Kingsport for a year and be embedded in six city schools for the 2016-17 academic year. They are Sevier Middle and Johnson, Jackson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy elementary schools.
KCS will be the third system to have Smith’s services, thanks to the grant that was applied for by now-retired Assistant Superintendent Dory Creech.
School officials liken coding to a language that needs to be taught to future coders as well as others in technical fields and even students in general to help their computational thinking.
The grant is through BoardDocs software provider Emerald Data Solutions, which has funded the program in a school in Utah and one in Arizona.
Amy Doran, associate principal at Washington Elementary, and Lamar Smith, federal programs supervisor, told the Board of Education at its Thursday work session that the K-8 grant must focus on schools that have a preponderance of Title 1 or students eligible for free or reduced meals.
“Coding is the next language we need to teach our kids,” Doran said of the grant program, which will start when Grant Smith arrives in July. She said requirements for the grant, which the system can meet, include a 1-to-1 ratio of students to devices at the schools and 14 hours of coding time per student.
BOE member Eric Hyche said he is excited about the program, which he said will jump-start coding in the school system. Doran said the coding would probably be taught in related arts, with library staff doing it at the elementary schools and a dedicated technology teacher doing it at Sevier.
BOE President Carrie Upshaw said cross-curricular applications are many and that she learned about it during the recent National School Board Association convention earlier this month in Boston.
Upshaw said in a “study hall” there, attendees were told that by 2020, the United States would have 1 million more coding jobs than qualified people to fill them.
“Let’s soak up as much as we can soak up in a year,” Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said, adding that the curriculum would remain with the school system and that he envisioned coding spreading to other city schools.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution in a Dec. 3, 2015, article detailed the work of Grant as a teacher in Arizona and Utah, after Atlanta-based Emerald Data Solutions hired him. KCS won the most recent Emerald contest mentioned in the article, based on an application Creech helped spearhead.