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Study finds school is in danger of closing

August 25, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

The fate of the Franklin County Career and Technology Center rests with the ability of its six supporting school districts to find ways to change class schedules, upgrade the curriculum and find money to modernize the 33-year-old school building and its equipment, a recent study said.

Michael Curley, the consultant who conducted the study, came up with his assessments following interviews with center officials and those from the districts that send students to the county's only vocational-technical school.

Curley said district officials and the Career and Technology Center's staff work well together, but the center is in danger of closing unless major changes are made.

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The school districts that send students to the center on Loop Road in Chambersburg are Greencastle/Antrim, Chambersburg, Tuscarora, Waynesboro, Fannett/Metal and Shippensburg.

Chambersburg sent 422 students last year; Waynesboro sent 167; Shippensburg, 141; Tuscarora, 86; Greencastle/Antrim, 73; and Fannett/Metal, 20, said Dalton Paul, executive director of the center.

Districts pay $4,137 a year tuition for each student they send to the center, Paul said.

Students in grades 10-12 attend. Most seniors spend their year working outside school in cooperative education programs, Paul said.

According to the study, some area school districts have block or intensive scheduling - much like colleges - in which students spend up to 80 minutes per class. It's difficult to maintain such schedules when their vo-tech students have to attend classes at the center all day for one full semester. They spend the other semester in their home high schools taking their academic courses.

More flexibility in scheduling is needed, the study concluded.

One recommendation of the study being embraced by district school officials is holding half-day classes year-round at the center. This will make a better blend with home high school class schedules, the study said.

There is also concern among the districts that some of the center's programs have become irrelevant and duplicative.

About 38 percent of the center's population are special needs students. District officials are concerned that the center's faculty are not prepared to deal with such students.

The fact that some districts are developing their own vocational technical programs means fewer students will attend the career and technology center. As a result, district officials that do not develop such programs fear the cost of tuition will increase.

The Career and Technology Center was built in 1969 and needs major renovations. Some district officials said the school building "felt like an old warehouse," the study said.

The consultant recommends a special task force be appointed. The members would include representatives from the center, the school districts and business and industry.

Reaction among local school officials to the study has been mixed.

"It's a very complicated problem. The study will provide the groundwork for some really healthy dialogue," said P. Duff Rearick, superintendent of the Greencastle/Antrim School District.

Greencastle/Antrim is building up its own vocational education curriculum, including its cooperative educational programs in which seniors work outside the school in careers they have trained for, Rearick said.

Greencastle/Antrim students take two years of vocational education courses in their own high school and spend their senior year on the job, he said.

"We have strong cooperative education and intern programs," he said. "It costs me $4,500 to send a student to the career and technology center. We can do it cheaper here."

Edwin Sponseller, superintendent of the Chambersburg Area School District, said he is encouraged by the study. He is among those who favor half-day sessions at the center.

"Students will be able to mix in with their own high school and be able to take higher elective courses. It's a definite advantage to us," he said.

Larry Glenn, president of the Waynesboro School Board, said his board's chief interest is in controlling the cost of sending students to the center and improving its curriculum.

"We have no interest in pulling out," he said.

"We want a good vocational education program, but changes have to be made, and not only financial ones," Glenn said. "The building needs a facelift, and upgrading the equipment is a big issue. It's going to be a costly venture."

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