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Vocational programs aim to expand diversity

Makaela Dawkins, left, and Taylor Armstrong are students in the electricity class at Blue Ridge Technical Center. The class is a traditionally male-dominated course. Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Technical Center. (Buy photo)

Melinda Mecimore, left, and Taylor Armstrong are students in the automotive technology class at Blue Ridge Technical Center. Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Technical Center. (Buy photo)

By Ryan Cornell

FRONT ROYAL -- You could be seeing more male nurses and female electricians and welders soon, and the Career and Technical Education programs in Warren County Public Schools might have something to do with it.

Offered though the county's middle and high schools, the vocational programs are working to increase the amount of nontraditional students -- girls in male-dominated fields and vice versa -- who complete the courses.

According to a performance assessment of these programs, the nontraditional career preparation completion rate for Warren County was 21.02 percent from 2012 to 2013. Virginia's agreed upon performance level is 22 percent.

Although the division's completion rate is just shy of the commonwealth's goal, it's a marked improvement since the previous year's rate of 12.66 percent.

Program coordinator Katie Rice is approaching her first year as principal of the Blue Ridge Technical Center. She said about half of the CTE programs in Virginia failed to meet the goal.

Because Warren County failed to meet the goal, she said they were tasked with creating a plan of improvement. She said she urges nontraditional students to continue with their programs, and tries to find out why others choose not to continue.

"It's a difficult goal to meet because you can't force students into classes," she said. "It has to be something they want to do."

All of the CTE programs are supported by the Perkins Plan, an annual federally funded grant. The Warren County School Board approved the 2014-2015 local plan, which totals about $80,000, at its meeting Thursday.

The School Board also approved $18,840 from the current year's Perkins Plan to be used to purchase 12 Vex robotics kits. These kits will be used by students in the division's Project Lead The Way Principles of Engineering course and will replace the Fischertechnix kits currently used.

Rice said the Project Lead The Way curriculum has switched to the new robotics kits, and Warren County needed to upgrade its equipment to align with the curriculum.

"I'm excited about where CTE is going, and it's on the rise," Rice said. "So it's no longer something you take instead of something else. There's a real value."

At its meeting Thursday, the School Board:

  • Accepted an $11,000 Emily's Hope grant to expand the library collection at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School.

  • Approved the creation of two annual $250 scholarships from Band Aids Inc. to be awarded to two graduating band member seniors at Skyline High School.

  • Approved a request to the Board of Supervisors for $30,500 in unanticipated revenue from an insurance claim and Title I and IDEA Part B grants.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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