Cybersecurity Elective Coming to CHS


With the world growing ever more digital, education in computer science is becoming more and more common. Chelsea High School is reflecting this trend with the expansion of their computer science department, which will offer two new electives for the 2021-2022 school year: Cybersecurity A and Cybersecurity B.

The electives will focus on the growing field of cyber security and it’s applications in the world right now.

“The classes are structured where it’s going to start with individual security online and then build to a small company with some servers and how to protect that,”  technology teacher Jason Rickli said. “Then we’ll branch out into larger networks and world-wide Cybersecurity issues, so we’ll be able to explore in a project-based way of attacking individual security along with small business and large companies.”

The classes will be offered for sophomores through seniors who have taken Computer Science 1. Rickli said this is so students can “get foundational knowledge of being able to work on computers.” Cybersecurity A has to be taken before Cybersecurity B.

“Cybersecurity B is a continuation of the curriculum,” Rickli said. “The curriculum is set up in a two-trimester setting, so Cybersecurity A will be the individual and small business piece and when we get to Cybersecurity B, that’s where we look at larger networks and infrastructures.”

Rickli said the workload will mostly be in class projects with lots of project-based work in teams, which offers a different class structure from the traditional core classes.

 “[Students would want to take this class if] they have an interest in finding something new and challenging in a project-based way,” Rickli said.  “It’s not a read the text and do worksheets class. The focus on projects helps students learn how to keep themselves secure and learn about cybersecurity.”

Unlike some classes where it may seem that the knowledge students gain is only to solve more problems, cybersecurity is a topic that directly impacts students and is all around them. From setting passwords to internet search filters, the knowledge gained from the class can be carried with students throughout their life.

“[This class will help] with protecting your daily information,” Rickli said. “Every day you are on the phone or on the computer even more than we used to be, especially with the pandemic. Knowing how that system works is going to benefit students because it will help them keep themselves safe and be able to know how their phones connect to everything and how to keep it all safe.”

While this class will start as an elective in the 2021-2022 school year, Principal Michael Kapolka said there are plans to expand it into a consortium class in the 2022-2023 school year, which will make it a more hands-on class and open it up to other schools and expand the options for students who are interested in a computer science career.

“It’s a path and an option that didn’t exist before,” Kapolka said. “It is working with an emergent field and it’s a way to give students [who are interested] an experience before they get out of high school and are looking for this type of work. If they didn’t have any background before, this is a way to be able to do that.”

This elective also comes as one of many additions in recent years to the computer science department at Chelsea High School, which is looking to open up more opportunities for students interested in computer science or careers in that area.

The courses that we’re creating are trying to put something in place for programs that we didn’t have before for students that are thinking about careers in engineering, a computer field, or even cybersecurity,” Kapolka said.

While the expanding computer department will benefit students interested in related careers, it will also allow students to learn skills that are more applicable than in some of their other classes, making the electives a good option even for students who aren’t looking for a future in computer science.

“We want to keep expanding and giving more kids opportunities to take classes [that are] going to not only peak their interest but be applicable in the new and growing world that we live in,” Rickli said.

Between AP classes, music and core requirements, it may seem impossible to find room in students’ schedules for another elective. However, the cybersecurity class promises to offer students a unique opportunity to learn about something that impacts them significantly that they won’t be able to get in any other class.

“[Students can find] an interest in a field that continues to grow and impacts them in their daily lives,” Rickli said. “Cybersecurity is a big issue. The more secure we are online and the more we know about how it works, the better off we’ll be.”