The To and Xu family of Essex Fells — Jonathan To, Nicole Xu, and son, Aiden, 8 — stand outside the new site for theCoderSchool in Upper Montclair. The school, which will offer coding classes for school-aged children, is expected to open in January. (COURTESY NICOLE XU)

By ERIN ROLL
For Montclair Local

Montclair-area kids who want to learn to code have several places to learn — clubs and classes in the Montclair school district, and organizations and businesses based in the community. Soon, they’ll have one more.

Nicole Xu and her husband, Jonathan To, are making plans to open a Montclair branch of theCoderSchool: a franchise that offers coding classes for students ages 7-18. 

The school will open up at 51 Upper Montclair Plaza, just off Valley Road, most likely in late January. Classes will be available both in-person and online.

Based in Palo Alto, theCoderSchool was co-founded in 2014 by Hansel Lynn and Wayne Teng, and began opening franchise locations two years later.

Today, there are more than 60 franchise locations across the United States. Montclair’s location will be the third CoderSchool franchise in New Jersey, the other two being in Short Hills and Montgomery. 

Coding, Xu said, is a skill that every kid will likely learn in school and need for adult life, just as learning how to use computers had been for previous generations. 

The Essex Fells family’s son, Aiden To, 8, is a second grader at Montclair Kimberley Academy. For the last year, he has been taking coding classes through theCoderSchool’s existing Short Hills location. 

It was then that Xu and To decided theCoderSchool could work in Montclair.

“I think that Montclair is a good fit,” Xu said, adding that the township is home to many well-educated and “forward-thinking” people. 

Xu is the owner of New Jersey Piano City, a music school and instrument store in Lake Hiawatha, which she founded in 2011 after a career in tech and finances. To is a data team leader at Haver Analytics. 

The Xu and Tu family, like many others, struggled when all New Jersey schools went to remote learning early in the pandemic. But even during that difficult period, Aiden loved taking his coding classes, Xu said.

“Through coding, Aiden has been able to explore his creativity through storytelling, and has created games that he is proud to show off. Equally important to us, he is developing a logical thought process and is actively improving his structural thinking and problem-solving skills,” the family says on the Montclair theCoderSchool site. 

Xu said a lot of other MKA students attend theCoderSchool in Short Hills, and said a lot of MKA families had been trying to find a good coding program close to their hometowns. 

Aiden is also a fan of Minecraft; there is an educational version of Minecraft that teaches coding skills to players, with basic games for younger players and more advanced studies in Java, Python and other programming languages for older students. 

The number of coaches and staff will depend on how many students are interested, Xu said; the class ratio is 6:1 for general classes and 2:1 for small group work. She expects the coaches will include local tech professionals as well as students from Montclair State University. But the coaches are likely to be people who enjoy doing coding for fun, on the side, and who enjoy working with children, she said. 

This story has been updated to correct the class sizes at theCoderSchool.

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