Johnston County

Johnston Middle College will end to make room for career and tech academy

New Johnston County Board of Education member Todd Sutton listens to a presentation at the board’s February meeting.
New Johnston County Board of Education member Todd Sutton listens to a presentation at the board’s February meeting. jdjackson@newsobserver.com

After a one-year inaugural stint at Clayton High School, the Johnston County Career and Technical Leadership Academy will move to Johnston Community College next year. To make room for the new school and cut out redundancies, Johnston school leaders will close the county’s two-year Middle College at JCC.

Eddie Price, chief academic officer for Johnston County Schools, said growth concerns at Clayton High School and a drifting from Middle College’s original intent led to the move.

“The Career and Technical Leadership Academy had a successful first year on the campus of Clayton High School,” Price said. But a premium on space at Clayton High and scheduling conflicts between the academy’s college classes and high school classes are making things untenable, he said.

“JCS and JCC have partnered in a decision to propose a move of CTLA to the JCC campus,” Price said. “We would like to merge CTLA with our existing Middle College High School at the end of the school year.”

The move is less of a merger than a replacement. Middle College, Johnston’s first foray into alternative high schools, was aimed at rising juniors who struggled through their first couple years of high school and found themselves on a wayward path. Since then, Middle College and its 5-year-old sibling, Early College, have consistently outperformed other high schools in Johnston, posting high test scores and earning the county’s only A’s from the state.

While the achievements at Middle College have been tremendous, the school has shifted from its original intent, Price said. “We completed a trend study of enrollment and demographics of students at Middle College,” he said. “The study revealed the initial mission of the school for students who were having difficulty in the traditional school setting had been lost. We discovered the school exists as a (Career and College Promise) site located on the JCC campus.”

“Although very successful, we feel these students can be equally served by CCP offerings at a traditional high school, online courses or hybrid one class at high school and the rest at JCC,” Price said.

Current Middle College juniors will still graduate next year with a diploma that says Middle College, but starting this fall, the new Johnston County Career and Technical Leadership Early College will begin as a five-year program. The school will operate similarly to the existing Early College at JCC, offering high school and college classes leading to both a high school diploma and associate’s degree. The focus of the school, though, will be more specific, with courses in medical assisting, nursing, information technology, early childhood education and industrial systems. The school will draw its enrollment from across the county and will serve lunch and offer busing.

Price said the move is part of a statewide trend away from middle colleges. At last count, North Carolina had just three middle colleges, and the push from legislators and community colleges is for students to come away with degrees rather than simply completing classes. The new early college model fits that bill.

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