District looking into Regional Career Academy

A grant application to research the possibility of turning the Mason County Area Technology Center into a Regional Career Academy was approved during the Board of Education meeting Monday.

The grant will allow district officials with Mason, Bracken, Robertson counties and Augusta Independent School to research whether or not a Career Academy would be feasible for the local area.

“Right now, we’re just in the planning stages,” ATC Principal Jeremy McCloud said. “The grant we’re applying for would give us the option of being able to look into our possibilities.”

McCloud said a Regional Career Academy would allow students taking technical classes to also take their basics, such as history, English, math and other required classes, at the academy.

“The students would be here all day,” he said. “Right now, the students come over for three hours and take their classes and then return to their high schools. This would allow them to do everything they needed right here.”

According to McCloud, there are challenges that would have to be addressed, such as where the students would eat lunch.

“There’s not a cafeteria here,” he said. “That would be something we would have to look into.”

McCloud said students from other school districts would continue to attend the school, but each district would still have to provide their own transportation.

“Right now, they bus the kids over for their classes,” McCloud said. “That’s something they would have to continue.”

The Regional Career Academy is not set in stone and is only in the planning stage. The resolution to apply for the planning grant will be submitted later this month, according to McCloud.

“We should know by April if we’ve received it or not,” he said.

The grant is a New Skills for Youth grant provided by J.P. Morgan. The grant is aimed at strengthening career-based education opportunities for students.

The ATC currently serves 185 students in five programs that include computerized manufacturing, welding technology, health sciences, electrical technology and automotive technology.

Mason County Superintendent Rick Ross said he is pleased with the idea of putting a Regional Career Academy in the area because it will good for the students.

“Moving toward a Regional Career Academy is a positive step in re-branding our area technology center,” he said. “Students are currently housed in the most outdated center in the state, working on limited equipment that does not meet industry standards, some dating back to the 1940s. We are hopeful the facilities levy will pass. We will invest $5 million in building and equipment upgrades for these trade-oriented students if it is successful.”

Robertson County Superintendent Sanford Holbrook said he is also supportive of the idea, because of the opportunities it will bring.

“It’s a great opportunity not only for our students but for our area as a whole,” he said. “This will give us better options for partnering with local business and giving the students the training they need to go into the careers they are training for.”

Holbrook said he is also in favor of the idea that students will be taking classes on a school campus in Mason County, though he believes there is a lot that would need to be discussed.

“It would be better to have everything on one site,” he said. “This way, the students can take all of the classes they needed and not have to spend a half day there and have to get on a bus and come back. Of course, we’ll have to talk about the mechanics of it and it might require all of the districts to come together and help fund the teachers at the academy, but I think it’s a good idea.”

Holbrook also said he does not see an issue with transportation for the students.

“We already put them on buses and transport them every day,” he said. “That’s something we could continue doing.”

Augusta Independent School Superintendent Lisa McCane said she is also in favor of the academy.

“We have a few students who attend the ATC,” she said. “We have been very supportive of this idea. We’ve worked with the committees on putting together an application for the grant.”

McCane said having the students at the ATC all day is a good idea for students in the career and technical education field.

“It makes sense for those students in the CTE program,” she said. “It’s more in line with their goals and I think it will be a good thing for them.”

Bracken County Schools Superintendent Jeff Aulick said he believes the academy will be good for students in the CTE field.

“You have to look at each child and their individual needs,” Aulick said. “If that’s what is best for them and their career path, then I am in favor of it. I believe it is a step in the right direction.”