By SAM NELSON, Bismarck Tribune
BISMARCK, ND (AP) – On a recent afternoon at the Bismarck Public School Career Academy, students were grouped around electrical circuits and various motor vehicles as part of the vocational education program and technical district.
Others finished their class work on their computers, while others donned welding helmets and watched sparks fly at workstations.
The Career Academy, located on the Bismarck State College campus, features multiple floors of classrooms, computer labs, and hands-on learning spaces, ranging from a mechanical workshop to hospital rooms, for students. students seeking to explore career and educational options outside of a four-year degree.
About 2,000 students from BPS and other schools in the region are enrolled in the academy, and their numbers are expected to continue to grow. This has prompted the school district to seek to expand its vocational and technical education facilities and programs, as well as the classes in which these programs are offered.
BPS has requested a $ 10 million matching grant from the State of North Dakota to expand its vocational and technical education program in response to this heightened interest and increased enrollment. The district is awaiting the results of the grant application process. The district grant and subsequent matching funds would be used to reallocate the existing space at the Hughes Educational Center, which houses the administration and life education program; an extension of the Académie des Carrières building; and a building in the Silver Ranch area.
The district would be required to provide matching funds for the grant and plans to use the Hughes Building appraisal of $ 14 million as its share. The total cost of the expansion is estimated to be around $ 15 million, of which $ 5 million is funded by district funds and private donations.
The Career Academy and Technical Center has been headed by Dale Hoerauf for 12 years. He said that over the past 10 years or so, there has been a shift towards promoting broader career and education options for children outside of a four-year college degree.
Students of the Career Academy have the option of taking courses in aviation, welding, graphics, healthcare or other fields. The courses provide more options for students, including those who might not be successful in a traditional classroom, Hoerauf said. Even if students don’t pursue careers in a specific trade, they still have gained valuable life skills, he said.
Bailey Schmitt, junior at Bismarck High School, and Olivia Tomanek, senior at Century High School, were working on a Toyota’s starter on the afternoon of November 19. Vehicles. Tomanek said she has always been interested in cars and initially wanted to take the course in case she needed any work on her vehicle.
“Now I’m learning so much more than I ever thought possible,” she said.
Schmitt said she thought she wanted to get into construction when she started at Career Academy, but after she started driving she wanted to learn how to fix her car. She thinks she could become a mechanic in the future.
Students can also take their core courses such as English and Science at Career Academy through the Learning Lab. These lessons are personalized for each student, so one teacher comes up with individual lesson plans for a few dozen children, English teacher David St. Peter said. Math and science teacher Tammy Anderson said she has a student in the welding program, so she is trying to incorporate welding into her classwork.
But the facility is running out of space.
The medical careers section was initially built too small; the program was a “if you build it, they will come” scenario, Hoerauf said. Interest in health sciences increased during the coronavirus pandemic. The healthcare classroom features a hospital-like setup with lifelike mannequins for students to practice on, but there are only six bedside settings.
Hoerauf also wants to increase program offerings in the future by adding programs for HVAC – heating, ventilation and air conditioning – electricians and dental assistants, which he says are in demand.
Enrollment in the district vocational and technical education program is increasing by about 11% per year, depending on the district. The desire to expose students to these career paths earlier is also driving the proposed expansion.
The extra space is not only needed for existing programs, but also to involve college students. The current program is structured in such a way that first year and second year students can take exploratory courses to discover the paths that appeal to them. Juniors and seniors take more specialized courses, Hoerauf said.
Prairie Rose Elementary School principal Tabby Rabenberg drafted the District Career and Technical Education Scholarship application, which emerged from a bill passed in the Special Legislative Session last month. . House Bill 1505 allocates federal coronavirus assistance to school districts in the form of grants to build vocational and technical education centers. Rabenberg also helped lead the expansion into the lower classes.
“Bringing that to college is going to give students the opportunity to try and learn more about a career that they might be interested in and find out if they like it or dislike it, and parents didn’t. you don’t have to pay for it, ”she said.
Rabenberg said Hughes’ expansion will also contribute to space constraints for colleges, where enrollments are expected to exceed capacity by the 2025-2026 school year. BPS is also building two elementary schools in the north of Bismarck to cater for a growing number of students.
The district also has plans to provide vocational and technical training for primary school students in the future. Rabenberg said the district received a separate grant of $ 10,000 for a “makerspace” at Prairie Rose Elementary, which high school students at Career Academy are helping to develop. A makerspace is a place to learn about the design process, and the goal is for students to learn how to improve their creations, Rabenberg said.
“We are trying to create a K-12 roster for career and technical education,” she said.
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