ATC receives research grant

Christy Howell-Hoots - [email protected]

The Mason County Area Technology Center received a grant that will allow district officials to conduct a feasibility study on turning the facility into a Regional Career Academy.

The $115,000 grant is from the New Skills for Youth initiative, which is provided by J.P. Morgan. The grant is aimed at strengthening career-based education opportunities for students.

Only six grants were awarded throughout the state of Kentucky, according to ATC Principal Jeremy McCloud.

McCloud said the money will be used to determine if it would be possible to open a Regional Career Academy in the area.

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.

“There is a lot we would have to look at,” he said. “We would need to make sure the students could take all of their classes here, so we would also have to decide how the teachers would be hired. Would each district have an English teacher here? Those are just some of the questions needing answered. We would also need to figure out where the students would eat lunch. There’s not a cafeteria here right now.”

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.”

McCloud said the grant allows for one year of study.

“The Mason County Board of Education will act as the fiscal agent for the grant,” he said. “When they receive the funds, we can begin the study. It will most likely be conducted during the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

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 “Students are currently housed in the most outdated center in the state, working on limited equipment that does not meet industry standards, some dating back to the 1940s.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.”

Christy Howell-Hoots

[email protected]