The Wake County school board probably should have done a little more pondering before opening the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy. It’s a school that gives students a chance to earn a high school diploma, college credit and a certificate in a field such as air conditioning and heating repair, plumbing, welding or game development and to develop other technical skills.
Such schools might be called vocational high schools, but the school offers both an alternative to the traditional college-path curriculum and the college path.
But the Malone school, which students praise, unfortunately is under-enrolled. After considerable debate and in the spirit of compromise, school board members who wanted the school to include grades nine through 12 and those who wanted just grades 11 and 12 compromised and enrolled grades 10-12.
Now under consideration is adding a ninth grade, which seems prudent given that the school’s capacity is roughly 700 students, and there now are 115 sophomores and juniors and 16 seniors.
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Before jumping on board members, however, it’s reasonable to give them a break. This is a new school, and some glitches were to be expected. So some tweaking, and making some changes, ought to be expected, too.
In fact, the board deserves credit for being willing to try something that expands the ideas of traditional high school education and could keep some students in school who otherwise might lose interest.
There are some good ideas herein, too. State funding for college courses, for example, is tied to students’ maintaining a B average, and many students are taking high-level courses to meet University of North Carolina system requirements.
In other words, this is not a conventional vocational school where students will immediately enter a technical or high-skill field (even though welders are in such demand that they can earn six figures). Many will go to college, and most will graduate from high school with college credit.
That the school is a good idea is absolutely true, and it may take some time to get going with full enrollment. The Wake system is really not going to be able to calculate how well the school is working and whether the curriculum needs to be adjusted until it has been up and running for a while.
Some public school critics say conventional schools are inhibited by too many rules, regulations and rigid traditions. This school is an answer for them. The school board deserves credit, not criticism.