King & Queen schools roll out vocational program

jojacobs@tidewaterreview.com

The sound of hammers and other tools will echo in King & Queen High School hallways thanks to a new career and technical training program coming next fall.

The school district will introduce an agricultural program with carpentry and lumbering components taught by a single teacher. School officials aim to expand practical career training for students interested in working with their hands after graduation.

"We want to have more vocational offerings for our students," King & Queen superintendent Carol Carter said.

Currently, the district offers courses in business and computer literacy as career and technical programing. The new agricultural program marks the return of traditional vocational training at the school since the end of similar vocational programs that operated in the 1970s and 1980s.

The district also sends students to New Kent's Bridging Communities STEM academy which provides classes in criminal justice, culinary arts and web design among other programs.

The high school's program won't require new construction at the school because it will take place in instructional space used for the previous vocational program classes, Carter said.

Officials are reviewing several applicants for the program's first teacher. The district hopes to enroll 75 students in the program.

King & Queen's budget earmarks $200,000 toward the program in fiscal year 2018, and the amount fully funds the initial phase of the program, Carter said.

Officials plan to add additional fields of study to the program such as masonry and welding in the coming years. Each course is expected to cost $150,000 to $200,000.

Vocational education is common in Tidewater school districts.

West Point offers a range of business, computer literacy and electronics courses within its own facilities. Traditional vocational education like welding or diesel mechanics are offered through partnerships with Bridging Communities and Rappahannock Community college, West Point superintendent Laura Abel said.

The district first sent students to Bridging Communities this year, with students studying courses like diesel mechanics and small engine repair.

West Point doesn't offer an agricultural program, because of a lack of student interest and a lack of farming in West Point, Abel said.

King Williams offers a career and technical training curriculum balanced between traditional vocational training like agriculture and welding alongside cyber security and information technology, King William assistant superintendent of instruction Stacy Johnson said.

King William students also attend courses at Bridging Communities, Johnson said.

New Kent Public Schools offer classes in business, culinary arts and technology within its facilities and also uses partnerships to offer career and technical education, New Kent executive director of curriculum and instruction Byron Bishop said.

The school district doesn't offer an agricultural program.

The district sends students to participate in small engine repair, nursing and criminal justice programs at Bridging Communities, Bishop said.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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