Citizen's committee ready to advocate for school bond referendum

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By Brian Garner

A group of interested citizens who have been selected to advocate for the upcoming bond referendum for the Chester County School District is ready to “take their act on the road.”

According to citizen’s committee chair Brenda Cabrey, the committee has waited to talk to members of the community about the bond referendum, which is for an amount not to exceed $38 million for Phase One of the district’s Capital Improvement Plan, which includes the new Career and Workforce Readiness Center and school improvements across the district, until a site for the Center had been chosen. Monday evening, Chester County School Board approved the administration’s recommendation to purchase a parcel of over 100 acres located near the York Tech Chester campus. (See related story elsewhere in this issue).

By law, the members of the Chester County School District, including Superintendent Dr. Angela Bain, cannot advocate for the referendum, they can only provide information about it. This is why the citizen’s committee was formed. Cabrey previously served on such a committee for the last bond referendum the school district had in 1996.

The school district design team, including Dr. Bain, architect Ben Thompson, Chief Operations Officer Jeff Gardner, Executive Director of Secondary Education Dr. Lee Green, Career Center Director Dr. Thomas Barr and Cabrey recently sat down with The N&R to discuss some specifics of the Workforce Readiness Center.

To the question asked that afternoon of where the Workforce Center was going to be located (which was decided later than night), Dr. Bain responded there were a lot of components to the decision, including making the purchase and getting the different entities to agree to the terms. Ultimately, the school board had to approve the recommendation made by the administration.

The location where the center will go is crucial, Dr. Bain said.

“We’ve talked about this all spring and summer, (and Ben Thompson has done a great job helping us with that). Our feeling is the center has to be accessible to all of our students. Our target area is central to the county. We looked at property in those areas that were central to the county,” she said. “we think we have a viable area that will be central to everybody,” she said.

The other piece of that puzzle is the district plans to have some core curriculum classes at the Center, so that students may attend the Career and Workforce Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays, say, (just as college students don’t go to all their same classes every day of the week) and be at the home school the rest of the week.

“We may be doing some scheduling like that,” Dr. Bain maintained. “What I’d like to see is our students to spend, say all day Tuesdays and Thursdays at the center, so they don’t have to drive up and down the highway. If a school wants to schedule their students in another way that will help the students stay on site, then that’s fine. We’re leaving that flexibility up to the principals and the schedulers at the high schools,” she said.

This week, some students are taking their EOCs, the End of Course exams, and Dr. Bain said since all students have laptops and since there will be a lab space at the Center, if the day students are attending at the Center is a testing day, they could take their tests at the Center instead of having to go back to their home schools.

The Career and Workforce Readiness Center will house the Adult Ed. program, the core classes and many of the career pathway educational courses. Some of those courses would be imported from the Chester County Career Center (but expanded) and some would be newer courses with new technologies in place, said architect Ben Thompson.

“While some of the programs are coming over from the Chester County Career Center, the ways those are going to to be delivered are going to be significantly different. The district isn’t looking at transferring over those 20th Century teaching methods that they were using over there. Instead if we’re going to offer carpentry at the new Center, it will be part of Building Science, and there’s going to be lots of components that goes into that,” he said.

“It will be Building Construction Science, where you are actually building things and you’re using your classmates across the hall in electrical and welding or engineering and bouncing things off of each other. It’s more collaboration – that’s the kind of style these programs are going to be. So there are some things coming over from the Career Center,” Thompson said.

The automotive curriculum is another thing that will be located in this facility, and not just auto repair, Thompson said, “but a much expanded curriculum as far as the collision side of auto repair goes – bodywork and painting. We are looking at a much higher level of instruction,” he said.

“Why are we doing that? Because when the students go out into the real world, they’re not going to have just one component of the auto repair curriculum, they’re going to be able to do all of that Day One when they walk into a job,” said Dr. Bain.

Thompson quoted a maxim that he has used before: “There are three things that are important in South Carolina: “Cars, planes and port.” All of those support the major industries. Those rooftops (of the new housing developments) are only here because we have the port, you have auto and you have planes. All of those things that support those three industries either directly or indirectly, are in this Center,” Thompson said, “construction science, auto, collision, advanced manufacturing, logistics. Those are the types of classes where we’re trying to think at a higher level.”

Speaking of “higher level,” one of the new disciplines that will be offered is aerospace engineering, taking advantage of the inspiration of nearby Boeing in Charleston and an aviation-related industry right in Chester County at ATI and GE Aviation (which recently announced a $28 million R&D facility in Chester County that will create 29 jobs).

“We are also bringing over welding from the career center, but it will transform into metal fabrication,” said Thompson.

The facility will be approximately 81,000 sq. ft. The school district hopes that some of the equipment in these classrooms will be sponsored by some of the industries in the area, Dr. Bain said.

In addition to the Career and Workforce Readiness Center, a positive vote on the referendum will also authorize some much-needed improvements at schools in the district, and this will be at each school.

“Every school will be touched – every school will see some sort of improvement,” Dr. Bain said.