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Thursday, May 25, 2017

New AAEC High School Facility opening in South Mountain

For the past few years the Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center (AAEC), a science-based charter high school in the area, has been quietly holding classes in makeshift trailers on the campus of South Mountain Community College. But after two years of construction, the critically acclaimed school is on the verge of moving into a new $4 million facility at 20th Street and Baseline Road.

“Grand opening day will be in the fall and we’ll be opening the school (this month),” says Dr. William Conley, school principal.

One of the many perks of this facility is the new bio-technology laboratory where students can work on projects such as using the DNA sequencer to alter plant genetics.

The facility has 15 state-of-the-art classrooms and an equine center which has an arena for horse classes, and a green house.

“This helps the teacher ‘team teach’ and stay more focused,” says Dr. DaLee Caryl, a veterinarian who has helped many of the graduates pursue medical degrees “It’s more contained and much nicer for discipline focus.”

“We just had a student who graduated with two associate’s degrees and has a scholarship to go to medical school…that is the caliber that we are putting out,” said Caryl.

The AAEC is considered a highly performing high school under federal guidelines. “Our emphasis on our campus is medical science, doctors, nurses, veterinarians, biotechnologists, anything like that,” says Conley.

During the most recent school year, AAEC students passed the AIMS exam with an 82 percent in reading, 71 percent in math and a 94 percent in writing. And, unlike most high schools around the country many AAEC students become “fifth year seniors” in order to allow time to finish up their associate’s degree—a program offered at the school– which takes longer than a high school diploma. “The fact that many of our seniors stay an extra year throws us into a different group and thus keeps us from becoming an excelling high school (the highest rating),” says Conley. “But we are focused on giving kids not only a high school diploma, but also cutting the heavy costs of going to college,” he adds.

The school is so far ahead of it’s time, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation looked into the school’s infrastructure when the couple was interested in creating a high school that offered college credits. “We have been doing this for years….we’ve been a recipient of many awards, including the FFA Science Research Award,” Conley says. He also believes the school’s reputation will help fill it to capacity. The school can take 375 students and so far, 314 have registered for the upcoming school year.

One of the biggest perks for those attend this high school is the ability to earn more than just a high school diploma. “We teach them their high school and college classes at the same time. A high number of them get their Associate of Arts degree before they even graduate from high school. That saves them about $35,000 in college expenses,” says Conley.

Another interesting aspect of the curriculum is that this school is a “patented school,” which means that if a company, a business, or another institution wants to use one of the ideas or creations of one of the students, that entity must get permission from the school and the student. It’s a way to make sure credit is given where it is deserved.

The Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center is publicly funded. The first day of school is August 14, 2006. For more information, visit the AAEC website at www.aaechighschools.com

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