The Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy opened today at 4220 E. Pikes Peak Ave. with more than 500 students, 42 teachers and onsite support from the Space Foundation.

The aerospace-themed middle school was created through a partnerhsip between the foundation and School District 11. The academy is named in honor of Colorado native and astronaut John L. “Jack” Swigert, who served on NASA’s Apollo 7 and Apollo 13 missions.

Swigert died of bone cancer during 1982, shortly after being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The school’s curriculum uses space and aerospace themes and principles to teach a broad range of subjects, with a focus on improving students’ proficiency in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.

The Academy occupies three of the four buildings on the campus; the fourth will house the Space Foundation Discovery Institute – a national professional development center for teachers, and an education destination for students. Space Foundation education professionals will relocate to the Space Foundation Discovery Institute during the coming months.

In addition to providing onsite training and support for Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy teachers, the Space Foundation Discovery Institute will provide training and support for teachers and students from throughout District 11 and from around the world. It will house classrooms, the NASA Educator Resource Center, and eventually include three major laboratories: a simulated space mission operations center to open in early 2010; a simulated Martian terrain laboratory to open in early 2011; and, as funding becomes available, a Science on a Sphere facility in early 2012.

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School District 11 is the largest school district in the Colorado Springs area with 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools, five high schools, six alternative schools and six charter schools.