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A Good ‘IDEA’: Academy of Construction and Design Finds New Home

By Arnesa A. Howell

After almost a decade at the newly christened Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus, the Academy of Construction & Design is moving to its new home at IDEA Public Charter School in Northeast, Washington, D.C.

The Academy – which blends academics with career and technical education training in electricity, carpentry and other skilled trades – will start its 2015-2016 academic school year at IDEA in the fall. The partnership between IDEA and the D.C. Students Construction Trades Foundation – which launched the Academy at Cardozo in 2005 – is a step forward in rounding out IDEA’s CTE course offerings. The public charter school already has classes in architecture and computer-aided design.

While offering strong college and military career prep programs including Junior ROTC, IDEA is looking to bolster its curriculum in the area of career preparation. “Career preparation is really something that has fallen off,” said Justin Rydstrom, head of school at IDEA. He is hopeful the Academy will have continued success and expansion at IDEA, which is currently renovating space for Academy classrooms and training labs.

“It’ll be just a perfect marriage and really fill out the current architecture program where we have design but we’ll now have the build as well,” explained Rydstrom.

The move to IDEA comes after officials with D.C. Public Schools and the principal of Cardozo in April 2014 informed leadership within the D.C. Students Construction Trades Foundation of a demographic shift in the neighborhoods surrounding Cardozo, according to Carol Randolph, chief operations officer for the D.C. Students Construction Trades Foundation, and co-founder of the Academy of Construction & Design.

“They believed that these parents would not be interested in sending their children to a construction academy,” Randolph told JOBS Coalition Pathways. They suggested the program move to Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School, added Randolph, but that proposal didn’t gain traction.

JOBS Coalition Pathways contacted DCPS for comment, but they did not respond by press time.

Needing a home for the Academy, the Foundation set out to relocate its CTE program. An “ideal” fit was found at IDEA, where Randolph said the leadership was “enthusiastic about our program and the many other benefits we would be bringing to [the] school.”

Recognizing that college may not be for everyone right out of high school, the Academy will offer additional pathways for student success. Said Rydstrom: “It may even be to a student’s advantage to enter the workforce for three or four years, then decide to go to busi- ness school and open [his or her] own business as an electrician or plumber. And they may actually come out far ahead and with less debt than a college graduate of the same age.”

Meanwhile, John McMahon, president of the D.C. Students Construction Trades Foundation, expressed his enthusiasm for the partnership, saying the missions “line up.” In a joint press release, he noted that the Academy will remain committed to providing students with hands-on learning opportunities, only this time it will be in the Deanwood neighborhood that IDEA calls home.