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What's on the horizon for New Horizons

aheymann@vagazette.com

New Horizon’s newly renovated and expanded Woodside campus in Newport News will be fully open in the fall, and that means more options for Williamsburg-James City County students.

New Horizons is a regional center owned and operated by the six local school divisions of W-JCC, York County School Division, Gloucester Public Schools, Hampton City Schools, Newport News Public Schools and Poquoson City Public Schools. The Career and Technical Education Center gives students hands-on experience and training in trades such as construction and veterinary science. CTEC offers classes in two locations: New Horizon’s Butler Farm Road campus and the Woodside Lane campus.

“Williamsburg-James City County and the community have talked about the need for career and technical education programs, but they did not want to drive all the way down (to Hampton). It's a long drive,” said Joseph Johnson, executive director of New Horizons Regional Education Centers.

“(New Horizons) is not its own separate program. We are them and they are us. (The school divisions) own us, so we provide what they need.”

Johnson said the Woodside Lane campus is a much shorter drive, about 20 minutes, for W-JCC students than the Butler Farm Road campus, which is about 45 minutes.

While it isn’t a new campus, more classes will be offered there in the fall. Johnson said all construction courses, including carpentry and heating ventilation and air condition courses, will move to Woodside Lane because a lot of the construction work is happening in the Northern end of the Peninsula. Woodside Lane will also be the center for information technology courses, the culinary arts program, early childhood education, veterinary science and pharmacy programs.

“Williamsburg is going to have a lot more programs closer than they’ve ever had before,” Johnson said.

Allison Faber, a Warhill High School senior who takes veterinary science courses at CTEC, and some of her classmates agreed the commute was an easy one for them.

In addition, W-JCC students will have a choice between morning and afternoon classes starting in the fall. The programs are set up so students spend half their day in CTEC and the other half at school. In the past, W-JCC students have only been able to take morning classes, but Johnson said Superintendent Olwen Herron was willing to look at transportation options that would allow students to attend morning or afternoon sessions.

New Horizons’ Career and Technical Education Center offers courses that train students for jobs that do not require a college degree.

Just this year, Johnson said New Horizons started the Advanced Technical Careers Academy, where students work toward getting a job upon graduation in the construction, manufacturing or automotive fields.

On May 1, the academy held a “Signing Day” for students and employers. Johnson said much like athletic signing days, students are given job offers and then they publicly accept their first choice by “signing” with the company. According to Johnson, 34 students signed with nine employers. These students will begin work after graduation.

In addition to being newer, Johnson said the larger space allows more students to participate in New Horizons, and he expects some of them to come from W-JCC.

Student Interest

The most popular career courses for students in W-JCC are construction, health sciences, technology and human services, according to Johnson. The most popular courses for W-JCC students at New Horizons this school year were computer technology courses, with 13 students registered, cosmetology with 10 students, heating/air conditioning with seven students and construction with six students.

Autumn Outen, a Jamestown High School senior studying cosmetology at the Woodside Lane campus, said she thought the program was a good opportunity for students. She said the Paul Mitchell School, which also teaches cosmetology, costs thousands.

“I think it’s good they opened up something that people can actually afford,” Outen said. “And we get the same education that the (Paul Mitchell students) do for cheaper.”

Johnson said the classes with the longest wait lists for students from all divisions are for health sciences. Next year, New Horizons will offer a class in physical and occupational therapy to help satisfy student interest.

“By …. renovating the CTE center, we now have a lot more space,” Johnson said. “So it's not only going to be closer and provide greater opportunities for programs, but will allow for Williamsburg to increase the number of students it can send to those programs.”

For the past five school years, there have been about 75 W-JCC students enrolled in New Horizons, with the exception of 2013-2014 where 87 students participated. Johnson said since Williamsburg students will have more classes closer to them than ever before, he expects participation to increase.

So far, 160 students from W-JCC have applied to the program, and applications continue to arrive. This time last year, 140 applications from the district were submitted.

The program has about a 90 percent retention rate of students, and last school year’s was about 97 percent, according to Johnson. The only students who do not finish are those who had to drop out for issues at their home schools, such as failing grades or disciplinary reasons.

“What makes (CTE) unique is students are applying and wanting to come here, so if you’re choosing to do something you tend to invest yourself into doing well,” Johnson said.

Also rising in popularity among W-JCC students is the Governor’s School for Science and Technology. Johnson said 10 years ago there were no W-JCC students enrolled in the Governor’s school. Today, there are 38 students with 12 enrolled in computer science, 12 in engineering and eight in biological science. The program is located on the Butler Farms campus of New Horizons.

Special education

New Horizons is also home to Newport Academy, which provides educational services for students with emotional disabilities, and the Center for Autism, which provides educational instruction and support services to meet the needs of students with autism.

Johnson said two years ago, a new special education center was built at Woodside Lane. They also added a wing for special education on York Middle School and Kiln Creek Elementary School. Due to its larger size, he said the programs are able to serve more children than they could previously. Both of these programs serve all six local school districts, including W-JCC.

“The regional special ed program offers … more intensive behavioral services, occupational therapy, rec therapy, speech therapy, reading specialists, psychologists all within the program,” Johnson said.

Currently, Johnson said W-JCC has 20 students, 10 in each program.

Want to learn more?

For more information on New Horizons’ Career and Techincal Education Center visit nhrec.org/ctec.

To learn more about the Governor’s School for Science and Technology visit nhrec.org/gsst.

Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at aheymann@dailypress.com, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.

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