New buildings would expand CTE programs

Medford School District is considering new building projects to expand career and technical education offerings at North and South Medford high schools beginning next school year.

At a School Board work session Monday night, Superintendent Brian Shumate and Chief Operations Officer Brad Earl presented a proposal to create two new CTE buildings, one on each campus. In addition to improving the work spaces for the schools' existing construction, engineering and architecture "pathway" programs, the buildings would house new programs in plumbing, electrical and heating, and ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

The project would be a major step forward in the school district's efforts to increase CTE options for students as part of its strategic plan to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. The project could cost anywhere from $15 million to $20 million, Earl said. 

The board decided to schedule a town hall for community residents to weigh in on the idea. It will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, at the board meeting room in Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford. Comments from the public will help inform decisions about the details of the facilities and the method of financing it.

One option for financing would be a general obligation bond, which would be funded through property taxes and would need to be approved by voters. If the board decides to go for a ballot measure in May, it would have to file with the Secretary of State before Feb. 23. The district also could take out a loan or rely on a combination of funding options.

The board expressed support for the general idea of building new facilities. Chairwoman Karen Starchvick said if the proposal were put to a vote that evening, she would have voted in favor of moving forward.

"To get to 90 percent (graduation), we need to take that next leap," she said.

Board member Jeff Kinsella said his visits to other Oregon high school technical facilities showed him the impact of what students are learning.

"It reminded me of what we had before, and it's where we need to go now," he said. "I'm sorry it ever went away."

Architect Steve Ennis drew up the building plans that were presented to the board. Although both sites would end up with similar facilities, the process of building at North Medford would require the demolition of existing structures. According to the sketches, the technical arts building would be torn down and then rebuilt, and the graphic arts buildings would be remodeled to include a plumbing, drafting, carpentry and electrical shop.

At South Medford, a new building would be raised adjacent to Warren Way, where a grassy field now exists.

Data from the district, state and national level show that students who participate in CTE graduate at higher rates than the overall student population.

In Oregon, the four-year graduation rate among CTE "concentrators" — who have earned one or more technical skill credits — was 14 percentage points higher than the general rate in 2015. It was 16 points higher in 2014, and 17 in 2013. In Medford, CTE concentrators graduated at a rate of 90.19 percent, which was 13.04 points higher than the overall district graduation rate.

Shumate told the board that the four-year 2017 graduation rate among Medford CTE concentrators was 94 percent. A comparison to the general rate won't be possible until graduation data for 2016-2017 is released Thursday.

Drew Waits, the training director for the local plumbers union and a North Medford alumnus, said at the meeting that Medford is "deplete" when it comes to high school graduates trained for technical jobs.

"They're a dying breed," he said. "And it sounds bad, but I always blamed the schools ... we've convinced every kid that they have to go to college or they can't succeed."

Pathways, which are topical course sequences that follow a specific pre-professional or academic route, are intended to not only keep students in school, but to incorporate a focus extending beyond graduation by preparing students with dual or articulated college credit or, especially in the CTE tracks, industry certifications.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or ktornay@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.

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