Panel suggests changes in school career centers

South Carroll facility closing included in plan

September 10, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A committee that studied the career and technology programs in Carroll County public schools has recommended sweeping changes, including the closure of the Career and Technology Center at South Carroll High and a $26.9 million expansion of the Westminster career center over the next five years.

The proposal also calls for $815,000 in start-up costs and $1.1 million in annual operating expenses for expanded automotive and cosmetology programs - two of the school system's most popular offerings - and for new programs in biotechnology, criminal justice, electronics and telecommunication, engineering, finance and databases.

Rather than continuing to split the county's career and technology budget and replicate the same programs at the Westminster and South Carroll centers, the committee decided it would be better to consolidate the course offerings in one upgraded facility, educators and school administrators on the panel said. The committee also included business leaders and parents.

"Some industry people on the committee suggested that to get some real economies of scale, we should combine programs and make clusters of what would be mega-programs," said Marjorie Lohnes, the supervisor of career and technology education for Carroll schools. "That way we'd have two or three teachers in the same program, we could rotate more kids in and out, and we could have a state-of-the-art teaching environment without having to have two of everything."

The board will discuss the proposed changes tomorrow at its 9 a.m. meeting at the system's administrative offices on North Court Street in Westminster. The board will collect public comments on the proposal - which is to be posted by Thursday morning on the district's Web site at http://ccpl.carr.org/ccps - and is scheduled to vote on the plan next month.

George Phillips, principal of South Carroll High and a committee member, said he is not sure what effect moving the programs might have on his students. He said some of them might decide to drop or not pursue career and technology courses rather than take a bus to Westminster each day.

"I have some reservations about [the proposal], but I believe the economics make sense. The group's decision was that it's better to have a consolidation of equipment and materials and to do it up there," he said. "The programs and the teacher are what draw the students, not necessarily the location. So I think that's going to be the determining factor."

Career and technology programs at individual high schools would remain largely untouched under the committee's plan. Courses in administrative assistant, accounting, business administration and management, horticulture, marketing, wildlife and natural resources and veterinary services would stay at the high schools that offer them.

The plan also calls for programs in child care, landscaping and floral design to be moved from the Carroll County Career and Technology Center into Westminster High School, which is next door. The high school's study population shrunk this year with the opening of Winters Mill High and the vacated space would be renovated for career and technology programs.

About 3,000 high school students will enroll in at least one career and technology course this year, Lohnes said, while about 400 high school seniors - 25 percent - will complete a full career and technology program.

She expects that number to more than double over the next decade to about 1,000 as students choose more career-focused courses to meet the county's new, tougher graduation requirements. The school board voted last year to require students to complete a career and technology program or meet the course prerequisites for admission to University of Maryland institutions.

Although the South Carroll Career and Technology Center is the older of county's the two facilities, the larger Westminster center is also out-of-date, Lohnes said.

"You have to remember that the facility we're in [in Westminster] is more than 30 years old and we wonder why that is not that attractive to industry or to our students," Lohnes said. "We have got to keep up with the times, especially in areas of technology."

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