Wake County’s newest high school, aimed at teaching students job skills that can help them earn a good living after graduation, still has many open spots.
The school system has extended until March 25 the deadline for students to apply for the new Vernon Malone College and Career Academy, scheduled to open in August. Wake is also waiving the requirement that students had to have submitted an application in December to be considered.
“We still have seats available,” said Ashlie Thompson, principal of the new high school. “We believe the responsible thing to do is to receive as many students as we can.”
The $24.5 million school will eventually hold up to 700 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors at 2200 S. Wilmington St. in Raleigh. On nights and weekends, Wake Tech Community College’s adult students will use the campus.
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The high school course offerings will include air conditioning and heating repair, cosmetology, automobile collision repair, electronic systems, plumbing, welding, nursing assistant, bio-pharmaceuticals, geospatial information systems, and simulation and game development.
School, county and community leaders have long argued that Wake County needed a high school focused on career and technical education, previously called vocational education. They said students would rush to attend.
But the school, which has openings for about 460 students the first year, only had 325 applications after the original Feb. 11 deadline. Thompson said it’s not easy persuading high school students to change schools, especially for freshmen who’ve just made the big transition from middle school.
“ ‘I’ve just gotten into high school,’ ” Thompson said of ninth-grade students. “ ‘At this point, thinking about the possibility of leaving is not on my mind.’ ”
Some students who applied in February, though, said they are ready to move to a new setting. Kayla Turner, 16, a sophomore, said the challenges of leaving Knightdale High School are outweighed by all she can get get from going to the new high school.
“It will be different,” she said. “But you have to consider your career. You have to think about your future.”
Her mother, Tushanda Turner of Knightdale, also is thrilled.
“I was so excited that Kayla is going to be part of a first-of-a-kind school in Wake County,” she said.
Kayla was accepted into the nursing program.
“I get so much satisfaction from helping other people,” she said. “I have a passion for wanting to help people.”
Thompson said nursing, cosmetology and game development are among the most popular programs at the school. She said welding also has been popular, but officials need to generate more interest in programs such as plumbing.
There are still openings in all 10 programs, Thompson said.
In addition to extending the application period, the school is trying some other things to drum up interest. It’s targeting students who filled out a survey in the fall expressing an interest in career and technical education.
The school originally was going to have just sophomores and juniors this fall, with the senior class starting in the second year. But now the school is taking applications from rising seniors, too.
That change allowed Tyler Troublefield, 17, a junior at Panther Creek High in Cary, to get accepted. He’ll be joined by his younger brother, Dakota, 16, a sophomore.
Tyler and Dakota both plan to be in the air conditioning, heating and refrigeration program. Tyler said one of his goals has been to find a profession that he can learn so he can support himself after graduation.
“It’s a job that can’t be shifted overseas,” he said. “There’s a lot of job security.”
Wake Tech’s help
Wake Tech will provide the instructors for the high school’s technical courses, in a partnership with the Wake school system and Wake County government, which is renovating a former Coca-Cola bottling plant to house the new school.
Graduates will get a high school diploma, college credit and a certificate in their area of study.
Both Troublefield brothers said they expect to attend Wake Tech after graduation to continue what they’ve learned.
Kayla, the aspiring nursing student, said she may go to Wake Tech or try to take the college credit she earns to get into UNC-Chapel Hill.
Thompson, the principal, said that once the school is open and people learn more about its programs, the demand will increase.
“It takes time for schools to build a presence in the community and a reputation, as well,” she said.