Signup is triple Pruden

Published 12:35 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

IW students opt for CTE courses

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

The Isle of Wight County public school division is introducing three new Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses into its curriculum this year, and enrollment in all three has more than tripled from when they were previously offered at the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology two years ago.

Cosmetology, building trades and welding courses have enrolled 57, 62 and 42 Isle of Wight County high school students respectively so far, according to the division.

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When the same courses were offered to Isle of Wight students at Pruden before the division announced it would be phasing out its relationship with the Suffolk-based center, only 24 students had signed up, 15 for cosmetology, four for building trades and five for welding. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The total number of requests to enroll in CTE courses at the division’s two high schools this upcoming year is 1,648 so far, according to the division.

That number, which is still in flux, may represent students taking multiple courses in the year and includes JROTC courses, according to division spokesperson Lynn Briggs.

By comparison, last year, the division had 1,645 student slots filled for its in-house CTE courses, Briggs said.

The division first announced plans for a slew of new CTE courses and facilities for its two high schools this past winter, to be funded in part by a $3 million donation from Smithfield Foods and a $7.9 million loan taken out by Isle of Wight County.

The loan is slated to be paid back over the next 13 years using money that had previously been used to fund 220 student slots for CTE courses at the Pruden Center.

Last year, after it announced it would be ending its relationship with Pruden due in part to low student enrollment, the division had 97 students sign up for Pruden CTE courses, and 125 students the year before that.

The division had been hesitant to disclose the current CTE enrollment number, Briggs stating that the data is changing frequently, as student schedules are still in a state of adjustment. The division plans to share a firmer number at a School Board meeting Aug. 10, according to Briggs.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton had stated upon first announcing the new in-house CTE courses that it would be at no extra cost, due to reallocating the annual $952,000 fund for Pruden for the projects. However, that’s no longer a certainty.

“There’s always that flux,” Thornton said of the cost. “Year one basically balanced us out.

“As we go to the future and we assess, and we need another culinary teacher, it’s going to affect our budget as we moved forward.”

Thornton said the division’s situation regarding needing new instructors would be the same regardless of whether the division had chosen to stick with Pruden.

As CTE courses are more “hands-on,” Thornton also said the division is still researching the costs of additional supplies needed in the schools.

Some of the programs, such as culinary arts, could become self-sustaining and generate revenue through sales, according to Thornton.

“So we don’t know yet,” he said of overall costs for providing CTE programs in the county.

The division does want its CTE programs to grow, he added, and at the end of three years it could have up to 400 slots for students, as opposed to Pruden’s 220.

“More opportunities, more slots,” Thornton said of the programs. “That comes to more expense.”

The division has been surveying students over the summer in an attempt to gage interest in several of its upcoming CTE courses.

The survey asks students entering seventh through 11th grade this year to indicate their level of interest for several new CTE programs on a scale of one to four, one being “not interested” and four being “very interested.”

The CTE programs listed in the division’s student survey include cosmetology, building trades, welding, farm business, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR), warehousing and global logistics and electrical.

Of these, cosmetology I and II, building trades I and II and welding I are currently already listed in the division’s Program of Studies for 2017-18 (welding starting in the spring semester).

HVACR and electrical are not currently in the division’s program of studies, according to spokesperson Briggs.

“The survey does help with preliminary planning and scheduling since it provides information from middle school students, as well as high school students, who are not signed up for a CTE course but are interested in taking a course in the future,” Briggs said in an email.

As for why the survey does not include any options for interest in traditional academic studies, or a college-bound career path, Briggs said that with the new CTE courses on the horizon, the division wanted to focus only on CTE interest. The survey is also a requirement for the federal Carl Perkins grant, which aids in the funding of CTE programs, according to Briggs.

“We wanted to make sure that we had the most recent data to include in our grant submission,” said Briggs.

The division first announced plans to revamp its CTE course offerings in February 2016, with programs including nursing, culinary arts, sports marketing, information technology and agriculture, which were offered last year at the division’s two high schools.

The division offered CTE courses in agricultural education, business and information technology, career connections, family and consumer science, marketing, medical and health sciences, technology education and military science last year, according to the 2016-17 program of studies.

Thornton said the division is working with students who signed up for Pruden last year to continue the CTE path they were on.

“We had directed students not to sign up for programs that we weren’t going to have, but some did, and even them we’ve worked with to guide them to go to Tidewater [Community College],” said Thornton, citing students taking automotive repair courses at Pruden as an example. The division will not be offering CTE courses in automotive repair.

“There were just a couple of cases like that,” Thornton said.

Renovations for new CTE facilities are underway at Windsor High School, with A.R. Chesson construction knocking down walls in the high school’s former Makerspace lab to make room for a cosmetology lab that will take up to 20 students at a time. Goats and chickens are also starting to arrive at a farm under development at Windsor Elementary School slated for hands-on high school agricultural studies.

The division plans to announce the results of the online student CTE survey at its Aug. 10 School Board meeting, according to Briggs.  {/mprestriction}