District officials noticed that enrollment is up when it comes to career-tech classes. Numbers show 33 hundred students are enrolled in career-tech classes this year. However where to place these classes is a problem. Students seem to turn down classes where they have to travel to a rival high school. This school year only 12 students are enrolled in a career-tech course that is not held at their school. Instead students prefer a neutral campus, like Holland Medical Magnet, where both Abilene High and Cooper students attend at Hardin-Simmons University.
District officials also noted the lack of interested students wanting to travel to a rival campus could be solved by creating a neutral campus. Dr. Virginia Mosier, career and technology official, says other districts have vocational schools in place where various school districts can send students to take a career-tech course. The school district sited funding problems.
Mosier also presented the fact that the district has tried to partner with other education establishments like Texas State Technical College in Abilene and Sweetwater and Cisco Junior College. Mosier says scheduling with TSTC and CJC became an issue. Many times three hour classes and labs do not work well with a student's campus schedule. Mosier also cited that philosophies were different as well. For example, TSTC focuses on teaching adults who want associates degrees. AISD focuses on teaching teens who are testing for a certain certification. Additionally, at TSTC, some classes are only being taught online. If students take online courses the district will mostly likely have to provide a computer lab, with the right software for each class, and a teacher or aide. Mosier says this can get very costly for district too.
Other ideas to address the need to expand included offering summer courses at area colleges and creating career-tech academies at Abilene High and Cooper High School. The academies would apply a "school within a school" concept where students would step onto a certain hall to take their career-tech courses. These courses will also correspond with academic classes like English and Math. In order to create these academies at both schools, construction is needed. Minimal construction cost would be at $9.1 million.
The district is now forming a 16-member task force. The task force will address AISD needs like career-technology, security, technology, and elementary school construction. Names should be finalized by October 13th. Each board member can submit two names for this task force. The district will appointment two members as well. Dr. Virginia Mosier and Cathy Ashby, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, will also sit on this committee. The district hopes to be made up of business and community leaders, as well as teachers, students, parents, and other with a vested interest in AISD. The board will meet throughout the months of October and November. Recommendations from this task force should be presented to the board at the December 8th board meeting.
Currently, both high schools have several career-tech programs like welding, mechanics, and computer science. The task force committee is looking at how to better expand and fund those courses.