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Wake County school board to vote on making CTE high school a standalone program

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It looks like the Wake County school board's hand is being forced in terms of what model to use for the new career technical education high school.

The school board will vote Tuesday on making the new CTE high school a standalone full-day program. The alternative would be a half-day program in which Wake would have one group of students in the morning and another in the afternoon.

For the deal to go through, the county has to sign off on it. At the last meeting of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, County Manager David Cooke made it known to commissioners which option county staff prefers.

"From the county standpoint, it would be important that the high school meet capacity needs," Cooke said.

Cooke added that it would only benefit the county if it were a full-day school.

In a full-day program, Wake could hold 700 sophomores, juniors and seniors or 775 juniors and seniors. In this approach, the students would take their  CTE courses and regular high school courses on the campus.

In the half-day model, students would take high school courses at their regular high school and the technical courses at the CTE campus. This model would let Wake serve 1,400 juniors and seniors.

A standalone program would increase Wake's capacity. A half-day program would not since the students would still be going to their regular high school.

Staff had said it could cost between $1.19 million and $2.1 million annually to transport students between the two schools in the half-day program.

One of the proponents of the half-day program has been school board member Jim Martin, who has raised concerns that operating a full-day program could result in the students being isolated. He has said he's worried that the CTE high school could become a dumping ground for students.

When the school board approved the concept of forming a CTE high school in April, one of the questions left undecided was whether it should be a half-day or full-day standalone program.

UPDATE

While acknowledging the county's concern about increasing capacity through a full-day standalone model, school staff said that's not the only reason they're recommending it over the half-day model.

Staff said that the time lost spent by transporting students to and from their base school would cut into instructional time, including the time needed for labs for the technical courses. They also brought up the additional cost of providing bus service in a half-day program.

Staff also said that running a half-day program would necessitate running until 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., cutting into the ability of Wake Tech to use it for its own classes or for community use.

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just read

I just read a story in an old Time magazine at a coffee shop about a really inspiring CTE school on a reservation in Arizona. What struck me about the school was that #1 it was very expensive to begin and then maintain the programs because of the ongoing equipment costs, which they had mitigated somewhat by getting many local businesses to donate equipment. For instance, local garages donated a lot of equipment so they could have a steady stream of well-trained mechanics for their shops. #2 there was a core group of people who were incredibly motivated and committed to the school who were out there every day really advocating for the school, making sure that it was well-funded, well-supplied, and supported by local businesspeople both through volunteering to work with the kids, and through donations so that it didn't turn into an out-dated dumping ground. #3 It was a half-day program where the kids went to their regular high schools in the morning and reported to the CTE school in the afternoon.

Do we have those elements present? Do we have the passion for this program to get businesses to underwrite the costs on an ongoing basis, because we sure don't have the money, unless Tata has a stash under his bed somewhere? 

We have a history in this county of not doing CTE well. Centennial Middle School was supposed to have a close connection with NCSU that would result in kids having a head start on both college readiness, and figuring out a career they'd like to follow because they'd be getting real world science and math experience. Didn't happen. Southeast High school was supposed to be a CTE school with students getting internships for part of the year to work at different jobs, with the idea they would function as apprenticeships and then student could go straight to into the job market. Didn't happen. 

Doing CTE well can be a life saver, doing it badly is a waste of money, and worse, a waste of human potential.

'A standalone program would

'A standalone program would increase Wake's capacity. A half-day program would not since the students would still be going to their regular high school.'

I don't understand this statement - if you have students going to their regular school, but only taking half as many courses (because they go half day to CTE) then theoretically you can increase the capacity of the base school.    If there are so many class openings - you can now have more kids at the school and still be able to accomodate them in the class openings.  This model has worked in NY for years. (BOCES)

A standalone high school

A standalone high school would be essentially the county's new high school and increase capacity by 700+ students.

A half-day program wouldn't increase capacity. You wouldn't say that a student who leaves a school for part of the day to go to another campus to take a class is increasing the sending school's capacity.

That's where I disagree -

That's where I disagree - you could increase the sending school's capacity because x number of students are not there for half the day - ie, they are not taking up class seats.   Aren't we talking about 35-40 kids per school?

So...

If you take 35-40 kids in the AM and then another 35-40 kids in the PM, you've increase capacity at the sending school by 35-40 kids.  If you only do one of those, then you haven't increased it at all -- the school cannot then accept 35-40 new kids.

Also, if you do 1/2 days, you end up with school buses crossing enroute -- you don't want the bus that takes kids from the CTE school back to their home school in the AM to be the same bus that bring them from the home school to the CTE school in the PM.  After all, that'd be 2 hours in the middle of the day that the CTE school isn't used.  

If you have 1000 kids in the

If you have 1000 kids in the school who each take 4 classes - that's 4000 class seats.

Take 20 kids who attend CTE, and you now have 40 empty class seats (20 * 2 classes) - so right, you've only increased you capacity by half.  (10 kids taking 4 classes)  But  - my point was they made it sound like a 0 capacity gain, which it's not.

Re buses - why wouldn't the buses just take the kids directly to CTE or directly home?

Well..

The problem is that if every student has to have a base school, then the limiting factor is the total concurrent capacity of the base school.  If the base school can hold 2000 kids at one time, then it doesn't matter if 40 of them are at the CTE high school for 1/2 the day --they're at their base school for the other 1/2.

As to the buses, I was referring to the 1/2 day environment, where they spend 1/2 the day at the CTE and 1/2 at the base school.  They'd need to take a school bus to get from one to the other.

Both those issues potentially go away of you do every-other-day at the CTE, as long as the base high school has two groups going to the CTE -- one on even days, one on odd days.

ok - so if they go half

ok - so if they go half days, the CTE is providing extra class seats but not extra capacity as a base school.    I thought the schools were not strictly limited to a number on capacity, that there was some wiggle room.  So even if it's just adding classes seats, they are effectively adding capacity.  

I don't know how alternate days would work with the current block schedule.

Can of worms

This high school is a can of worms.  MUCH more thought should be put into this before WCPSS commits.  Dialogue between WCPSS and Wake Tech should drive the direction of this school.  Wake Tech is a flagship of CTE in the state.  The core courses students must pass in order to become a mechanic, an electrician, a plumber, nursing, drafting, lab tech, etc are rigorous, let alone the specialized classes.  We should be designing a high school that would prepare students a strong foundation to enter into these programs at Wake Tech. I encourage anyone who wishes to debate with me to first look at the courses of study on line at the Wake Tech website.  Some of these programs are next to impossible to get into, like auto mechanics.  Very few entry spots for very many applicants - for example I believe there are 24 spots annually, and these students progress together through the two year program.

This is also an expensive proposition at start up.  The computer diagnostics, the latest technology, the recurring expenses of lab supplies, not to mention having instructors up to date in the latest is a piece WCPSS must commit to in order for this school to be all it can be for those students not wanting a 4 year institution. 

Again, a conversation of what WCPSS can do to prepare students for the Wake Tech program should be the first conversation, not replicating what Wake Tech offers.

agreed

Vocational education is important, but too often schools like this become quickly outdated (teaching skills that no one needs any more), and a dumping ground for kids that no one else wants to deal with. I think the system needs to slow down, and actually think through policy decisions BEFORE they start so many new programs. The board needs to be able to get out of the weeds of discussing minutae and actually give direction on policy, and then let the system implement that policy. But instead what is happening is that Tata constantly comes to them with the latest idea, with no overall strategy, and the board gets bogged down in dealing with details. What is the rush?

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.
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