The district began the new school year with a remodeled building that serves as its career and technology education center, a move in keeping with a state trend emphasizing career and technology education.
Athens ISD used $1.4 million in qualified school construction bond funds from a federal stimulus program to turn an approximately 6,500-square-foot wing of the old high school into the career and technology education center, Barry Choate, director of operations said.
The new career and technology center “lets us have our own place to be,”Sandra Choate, career and technical education director said.
It allowed the district to move its career and technology classes that previously were in scattered locations into one refurbished, modern educational facility.
The remodeling started at the beginning of summer and finished in a 90-day whirlwind in time for school to start.
It included upgrading electrical outlets in all classrooms and data drops. It has added points for wireless access throughout the building, Barry Choate said.
The structure, which has served various uses through the years, sits across the parking lot from the current high school and within walking distance. Other programs are housed in other parts of the building.
“All of our career and technology education programs are growing by leaps and bounds. Having an area to put those kids and a place to call home is great,” Mrs. Choate said.
Most of the career and technology courses are electives, although some count as a fourth science credit.
Counselors work with students on career investigation in the eighth grade.
They enter a program or cluster of courses in a career field as freshmen and follow that “pathway” throughout high school, but have the option of switching to another area if they change their mind, Ms. Choate said.
Some students pick two pathways as freshmen and decide later which they like best. Sometimes, even as juniors and seniors, they make a switch, she said.
For years, the district has known that career and technology education is important and offered several courses, but couldn't get the classes organized into a department until now, Barry Choate said.
“We are trying to get more kids interested in more programs so when they leave high school, they've got an edge … they have skills to get a job or the skills they need if they want to pursue a certificate at a community college or move toward a four-year degree,” he said.
Ms. Choate echoed, “We have the facilities that allow kids to get true hands-on experience in what they are going to be working in when they go to college or go on to their career.”
The career and technology education program not only gives pupils skills they will need for a job or college but causes them to want to come to school, Ms. Choate added.
“We (career and technology education educators) are here to support the core subjects and reinforce what they teach, but we're also here to make the kids want to be here because it's the 'I choose to be here part … the elective part.' Our goal is to make them want to come to school every day and be in our classes.”
Only in the last three years has the district progressed to the point of gradually designing a career and technology education center, Ms. Choate said.
About two years ago. The longtime agriculture program moved into the career and technology education center from across the street. The ag shop is large enough for students to build trailers and put tractors together.
Culinary arts and family consumer science is in its third year in a remodeled kitchen. Several programs have been conducted for years at different sites, such as business and health science.
The only program new this year is audio visual and communication, replete with an audio visual production lab for television broadcasting, cameras and equipment, a studio, a green screen, storage rooms and other accouterments.
The center has the same type production studio setup and equipment that students will use for college and television broadcasting, only on a smaller scale, Ms. Choate said.
“It's state of the art,” she said.
“We are working toward doing a newscast for announcements on a daily basis; we hope to be doing that by the end of the first six weeks.”
Nearby is a print shop for all of the district's printing needs.
Along a walk down the hallway is a health science laboratory furnished with hospital beds for use in training students seeking certification as nurse aides.
There is a new and improved speech room and a business room with about 30 computer stations.
The education in training program allows students to start as freshmen learning teaching strategies and how to work with children. By the time they are juniors and seniors, they go into elementary schools as teacher aides.
Two classrooms were turned into a shared teaching space with computers in one end and a classroom on the other end, making it possible for a teaching and monitoring students using computers at the same time, Barry Choate said.