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What's next in career education for Northwest Arkansas high school students?

by Brenda Bernet | March 26, 2017 at 3:00 a.m.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/JASON IVESTER Mallory Keith (left) and Molly Miller, both Bentonville High juniors, perform physical examinations in October at the Center for Health Professions Building at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. The students are part of the high school’s Ignite Medical & Health Sciences class.

Springdale's third high school

SPRINGDALE -- In 2020, the second class of seniors will be graduating from the Don Tyson School of Innovation.

The school follows a model of personalized education that gives students flexibility to move through coursework at their own pace.

Students in what is becoming the Springdale School District's third high school choose from seven career study paths, Principal Joe Rollins said. They have options to earn workforce certificates, participate in internships and finish high school with both a diploma and as much as a two-year associate's degree from Northwest Arkansas Community College, Rollins said.

The School of Innovation over the next two years will become an eighth- through 12th-grade campus with about 1,000 students. The school adds to programs emphasizing careers at Springdale High School and Har-Ber High School.

Springdale High School has offered career academies for years, and the campus is building on programs for students interested in teaching and in culinary arts, Rollins said. Har-Ber High School has organized its student body into houses that emphasize broad interests, such as arts, technology and communication, and architecture, construction and manufacturing, he said.

Ignite program adds strands

BENTONVILLE -- What began with 16 students interested in information technology careers will grow to 200 students in eight career strands in the fall, said Teresa Hudson, director of the Ignite Professional Studies program in the Bentonville School District.

The strands are competitive, with the medical and health sciences drawing 60 students for 20 spots this school year and 100 applying for 40 spots next school year, she said. Medical and health science students do rotations in hospitals and clinics, and 18 of the 20 students this year earned their phlebotomy certification. The other two earned a pharmacy technician certificate.

Hudson said she anticipates a greater outreach this spring to invite students from other western Benton County school districts to participate in the Ignite program.

By 2020, Hudson hopes to add more depth to the eight career strands, such as providing biomedical engineering and nursing tracks, she said

Push for regional center

GRAVETTE -- Superintendent Richard Page thinks it's possible for a regional workforce development center to open in 2019 because Act 509 of 2017 authorizes the creation and operation of the center.

The Gravette, Bentonville, Decatur and Gentry school districts formed a consortium that allows students to attend career education programs in any of the four districts, Page said.

"This legislation allows us to pool our money together to have the power to offer more than what we could ever do for ourselves," Page said.

Northwest Technical Institute, with its main campus in Springdale, provides the welding instructor in Gravette. It's one of three satellites the institute will continue next school year. The others are in Rogers and Farmington.

The institute has offered a dental assisting program for high school students in Fayetteville that will move next school year to Farmington, President Blake Robertson said. The institute also will offer criminal justice classes and is seeking approval from state officials to add an introductory machining program and an information technology program that will focus on computer networks and computer languages.

The institute's programs for high school students draw about 300 students, but that number is expected to grow with the development of one or more regional centers, Robertson said.

Responding to projected demand for workers

ROGERS -- A renovation of the school district's career center on the Rogers Heritage High School campus will finish in August, said Dawn Stewart, director of career and technical education for the district.

The center will retain its automotive service technology, advanced manufacturing and machine tools, construction technology, and vocational agriculture shops, Stewart said. The renovation will provide increased training and certification opportunities, she said.

The district added a construction technology program this school year, Stewart said. The program's first level focuses on construction skills and leads students through curriculum to earn industry-recognized certificates from the National Center for Construction Education and Research and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The program will include carpentry next school year and mechanical, plumbing, electrical and heating-and-air-conditioning training in the 2018-19 school year, she said.

NW Business on 03/26/2017

Print Headline: What's Next? School districts share plans for career education programs


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