What’s new this school year?

PINELLAS COUNTY — Pinellas County Schools has announced a variety of new initiatives and programs on the horizon and in the works.

New PCS initiatives

PCS Connects

This fall, Pinellas County Schools is kicking off PCS Connects, a one-to-one digital device initiative aimed providing all students with access to digital devices. This school year, the program will provide laptop computers to all students in grades 4-9, with plans to add additional grades in the future.

Students who don’t have a digital device and need one for digital learning will have the opportunity to contact their school to check out a device. Also, families who do not have internet access at home can contact schools to check out a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The use of digital devices will be integrated into the instructional day. PCS Connects will allow for a deeper partnership between families, students and teachers. Parents will have daily access to instruction and enrichment materials for their students. The initiative is partially funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Parent-Guardian Connection

The Office of Strategic Partnerships will launch the Parent-Guardian Connection this fall to provide a virtual forum where parents and guardians can connect. The Parent-Guardian Connection will provide Pinellas County Schools caregivers the opportunity for fellowship with families across the district, so they can be supported, share resources, engage and connect.

The engagements will be presented via Zoom conferences, which will be offered once a month.

New PCS programs

New MIT collaboration provides advanced STEM program for East Lake High students

A new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative, Eagle Works, will provide advanced STEM studies in Applied Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Vehicles to East Lake High School students. Eagle Works is based on the Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The program will teach skills that empower students to solve tomorrow’s transportation problems today by applying artificial intelligence. The collaboration with MIT-BWSI is the first of its kind.

Eagle Works will offer a hands-on, project-based, student-led and faculty-facilitated learning experience. The program is designed for high school students with a keen interest in engineering, robotics, electronics, software and applied artificial intelligence.

Students will use Linux, Robot Operating System (ROS), and Machine Learning algorithms in Python programming language, build a robotic vehicle and apply artificial intelligence to make it drive itself using computer vision.

U.S. Coast Guard to establish JROTC at Pinellas Park High

The United States Coast Guard will soon establish a Coast Guard Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program at Pinellas Park High School. There are currently only two other Coast Guard JROTC programs located in Miami and in Elizabeth City, N.C.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist introduced legislation in September 2019 calling for the creation of a USCG JROTC in Pinellas. That request led to a provision in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act authorizing the creation of Coast Guard JROTC available to schools across the country. Previously, U.S. Coast Guard JROTC programs could only be established through acts of Congress.

Pinellas County is home to over 1,000 Coast Guard members and the nation’s largest Coast Guard Air Station, Air Station Clearwater.

Jacobson Technical High School to expand veterinary program

A new veterinary sciences building will open to students at Richard O. Jacobson Technical High School at Seminole. The state-of-the-art facility will include two additional veterinary classrooms, a lab and barn. Students now work with birds, rabbits, cows, horses, pigs and a goat that live on school property. The expansion also adds dogs and cats to the list of animals in the students’ care.

A grant for $2.7 million from the Jacobson Foundation will cover part of the total construction cost of $4.1 million. Students who attend Richard O. Jacobson Technical High focus on career studies in addition to the regular general education courses.

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