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Sandy Journal

Top-ranked Beehive Academy looking to expand for younger schoolchildren

Aug 01, 2019 10:00AM ● By Julie Slama

A Beehive Science and Technology Academy student is creating gas as part of a chemical reaction at a recent STEM fair. (Photo courtesy of Beehive Science and Technology Academy)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

By fall 2020, hundreds of elementary-age students may benefit from the efforts Beehive Science and Technology Academy administrators are making this summer.

That’s because Beehive Academy was approved earlier this year by the Utah State Charter School Board to expand to offer classes to elementary students, allowing the school to educate kindergarten students through 12th grade.

This summer, officials for Beehive Academy, the only public charter school in the city, are looking for a new school location, which could be an existing facility or a new building.

“We are looking for sites that will meet our needs,” Beehive Director Hanifi Oguz said, adding that ideally, the school would like to remain in the Sandy area since the majority of students are from the area.

Currently, there are about 325 students from sixth grade through 12th grade attending the school, which recently ranked No. 1 in the Salt Lake City metro area by U.S. News and World Report. The ranking was based on college readiness, college curriculum breadth, reading and math proficiency, reading and math performance, underserved student performance and graduation rate.

If Beehive Academy expands in the 2020–21 school year, Oguz said it would gradually increase its students. The maximum student enrollment would reach 1,167 students.

“We are hoping to have our facility by end of fall,” he said. “We will wait until we have our building before we take our applications for K (kindergarten) through 5th-grade students.”

Oguz said if they cannot find a site that meets their needs, Beehive may delay its fall 2020 opening for elementary students.

Part of the reason school officials decided to expand is to help students improve their education not only in humanities, arts and history classes, but also in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at a younger age, he said.

“Our lowest test scores are our sixth- and seventh-graders. They come here and we are trying to catch up from their early years. We can serve those kids better if we had them sooner. We can streamline our program, which makes STEM a priority, to these elementary students who may not get as much exposure to technology or engineering,” Oguz said.

For example, Beehive’s current students participate in the STEM Expo, where they present the projects they research, analyze data, develop the project, produce a digital portfolio, put on YouTube, create their own website and demonstrate. 

“For younger students, it may be a version of that is appropriate for their level, but still introducing the same skills as they develop a project and be able to communicate about it,” he said, adding that the elementary team would be the ones to determine the curriculum. “Our aim is to have more exposure in using technology to do more creative learning.”

Oguz said that by introducing more technology project learning at an earlier age, it may result in more students entering the STEM field.

“We all know Utah is in deficit with the technology war. The latest number shows 5,000 computer science jobs that are open, and Utah can’t find employees to fill. Our students are learning the skills in school, and they are being exposed to the jobs when they visit or have internships. We would be preparing more students who could fill those positions,” he said.

This past year, all 23 Beehive seniors graduated, with about 18 accepted and planning to attend college immediately after commencement, he said.

Since 2011, when the first Beehive senior graduated, Oguz said the majority have entered college and are currently studying technology-related fields or have entered into careers ranging from robotics to urban design.

Students have the opportunity to be tutored or join in many of the school’s after-school activities from Girls who Code and 3Dmodel and animation to soap making and garden club. Oguz said they would extend to the elementary students or introduce clubs and tutoring for that age group.

Many Beehive students who are active in clubs, such as FIRST robotics teams, have qualified and competed at the international competition, and others, 18 this year, have been awarded honors at the regional science fair. In addition, two students are Intel ISEF grand prize winners and four students are competing at the national Technology Student Association contest. 

Since the school opened in 2005, about 30 Beehive students have become congressional medalists. The school received the 2016 Charter School of the Year award by the Utah State Charter School Board and was named the 2017 Apple Distinguished School for its innovative approach to creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

This year, the school had its first student, junior Sanjana Kargi, earn a perfect ACT score on the college-preparatory examination, and earned the College Board’s AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for attaining female student representation in AP Computer Science Principals. 

Currently, Beehive offers AP courses as well as concurrent enrollment classes and career and technical education pathways.