Decatur City Schools is expanding its career technical curriculum, a move that could have some students “job ready” when they graduate high school, secondary curriculum coordinator Dee Dee Jones said.
The school system reached an agreement with Calhoun Community College to add more dual-enrollment options. A grant is paying for the classes, which normally cost about $400 each per semester, Jones said.
“Our goal is to be a model for the state,” she said.
Calhoun and Decatur school officials started talking about an alignment in January.
“Our goal is to make sure every student in our system is career-ready when they graduate,” Decatur schools Superintendent Ed Nichols said.
The classes would prepare kids for jobs in fields such as EMT certification, cosmetology, nursing assistant, industrial maintenance, aviation welding and even broadcasting. The classes also would apply toward a college degree at all in-state colleges and universities, Jones said.
Decatur and Calhoun already had dual enrollment agreements for six classes in English and math that apply toward a college degree and also are transferable to in-state colleges and universities.
Bethany Clem-Shockney, dean of business, technology and workforce development at Calhoun, said Decatur’s school system stands to benefit the most from dual enrollment because of its proximity to the college.
“The students can come here and get hands-on experience,” she said.
The agreement was welcome news for Austin freshman Brady Dial, who is not dual enrolled but is in the introduction to engineer design class at Calhoun.
“I wanted to take advantage and get ahead in college, but I couldn’t dual enroll because I am a freshman,” he said.
A significant precursor to this plan fell into place last month when Decatur City Schools lowered the credit requirement for graduation from 28 to 24. That gives students more opportunities for dual enrollment, Nichols said. Most Alabama school systems and the state require 24 credits.
The additional credits Decatur required were electives and had nothing to do with the state requirement of four credits each in English, math, science and social studies.
Jones said only about 30 Decatur students are dual enrolled “because there has been very little flexibility in their schedules.”
Most of the dual enrollments are in Alesia Doran’s after-school engineering and technology class at Austin High. She said credits student earn also will transfer to Auburn University.
“But I have had students to graduate and go to work for engineer and architectural firms,” Doran said.
Across the hall, teacher Bill Gibson has students dual enrolled in his machine tool technology class.
“There is a shortage of good machining operators,” Gibson said. “The students who really get this can either go on to college or go to work.”
Decatur’s decision to give students more opportunity for electives aligns with a policy the state Board of Education adopted in January as part of its Plan 2020. The state’s objective is for all students to enter ninth grade “prepared and with a four-year plan that addresses their individual academic- and career-interest needs.”
Dial, whose father is a computer programmer, wanted to dual enroll as a freshman, but the system’s former academic requirements made it difficult.
Beginning next year, Nichols said, incoming ninth-graders will start on a diploma track that gives them the option of creating their own academic track.
“I’m glad that students have more career tech options,” Dial said. “We need it.”
Deangelo McDaniel can be reached at 256-340-2469 or email@example.com.
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