District leaders are hoping to enact an initiative that would make computer science mandatory for graduation

Chicago Public Schools officials said they are ready to move ahead with an initiative long-touted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to make computer science a requirement for high school graduation.

“We want our students in Chicago to have exposure and training to the science, even if they go into other fields where it might not be as immediately applicable,” district CEO Forrest Claypool said during a news conference at Curie Metropolitan High School.

Emanuel has pushed for the initiative since 2013 after the district partnered with Code.org, a Seattle-based nonprofit promoting computer science education. It agreed to provide free computer science curriculum and professional development for teachers.

Under a measure that the Board of Education is set to vote on, students in the 2016-17 freshman class will have to take at least one computer science class worth one credit as part of their two-credit career education requirement.

Computer science is among the fastest-growing and most lucrative sectors of the American economy, and qualified workers are so scarce that half a million jobs remain unfilled, according to the federal government.

Claypool announced the proposed requirement outside a technology classroom at Curie, where he’d earlier spent some time talking to introductory computer science students about the day’s lesson on basic HTML coding.

Students were tasked with building a website that would display their “life goals,” such as graduating from college on time or obtaining scholarships.

“If I do something wrong, it’ll mess up the whole thing, so I have to make sure everything is perfect,” ninth-grader Juliana Smith said while she worked at her computer. While Juliana aspires to be a judge, she signed up for the introductory class because she was curious to learn about website structure, and how links and drop-down boxes worked.

Computer science courses have already been implemented at 107 schools, 41 of which are high schools prepared to adopt the graduation requirement. About 250 teachers and administrators are already computer science certified, district officials said.

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