Wake County school board approves vocational high school concept

khui@newsobserver.com April 24, 2012 

— Acknowledging that college isn’t for everybody, the Wake County school board on Tuesday approved the concept of creating a vocational high school geared toward teaching technical skills that students can use to get jobs after graduation.

With a goal of opening in 2014, the new career and technical education high school would train students in fields such as plumbing, automobile collision repair, refrigeration, cosmetology and biopharmaceuticals. Under a partnership with Wake Technical Community College, students would be able to graduate with a high school diploma and enough college credit for a certificate.

“We need to give students who are seeking career and technical options and who are not necessarily planning to go to a four-year college more options,” said school board member Susan Evans.

School system and Wake Tech leaders are looking at leasing the former Coca-Cola Bottling Facility at 2200 S. Wilmington St. in Raleigh to house the school. Don Haydon, the school system’s chief facilities and operations officer, said the previous timetable to have the school open in 2013 wasn’t realistic.

The details for the program, such as which grades would be served, how students will be selected and whether it would be a half-day or full-day program, haven’t yet been finalized.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners wold also have to approve the deal for the school to open.

The idea of a Wake County high school focusing on vocational and technical skills has been discussed for many years. “Students need different gateways,” said school board member Christine Kushner. “Comprehensive high schools don’t work for everyone.”

In addition to serving high school students, supporters have noted that Wake Tech plans to use the site on nights and weekends to offer programs for college students and adults in the community.

Administrators laid out two possible models on Tuesday:

• The school could serve 700 students in grades 10-12 or 775 students in grades 11-12 in a full-day program.

• The school could serve 1,400 juniors and seniors in a half-day program where the students would spend the other half the day at their regular high school. This option could cost between $1.19 million and $2.1 million annually to transport students between the two schools.

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children issued a statement late Monday saying they support the concept of the vocational high school, but raised concerns about its design and implementation. The group wants to ensure the new school has a diverse enrollment.

“We believe that thorough research and clarity of goals are critical to the implementation of a successful school in the long term,” the group said.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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