by Lisa Tome
The members of the Cecil County School of Technology's Class of 2016 will have the distinction of being the only graduating class which will have attended classes in three buildings.
Those who sign on for a technical education will attend their home school as well as two different buildings - the current school in Bay View and the new building on Appleton Road.
Perry Willis, Executive Director for Support Services for Cecil County Public Schools, explained how the process for getting the new building ready is moving forward.
Last fall, the county purchased the former Basell site which is being converted for use as the new tech school. The property consists of about 91 acres, and 141,000 square feet of finished space. Previously, it was a research and development facility. The original Comprehensive School of Technology Capital Improvement project was expected to cost more than $61 million, but the plans were put on hold due to the economy and anticipated enrollment increases across the county not materializing.
The current Cecil County School of Technology in Bay View is limited to 74,000 square feet and an enrollment of just over 200. More than 150 students are on a waiting list.
The members of the Class of 2016 will start their school year next January at the Bay View building. When they return for their second semester, they will go to the new site.
The new building will eventually house as many as 550-600 students in various courses of study. If Cecil County Public Schools enrollment grows, the building can be expanded. The new building will also allow for expansion of the number of students in current programs.
Projected course offerings are driven by student need and popularity. Plans are to offer the following classes in the new building. Some will be added over time.
Culinary Arts - Program will double in size to accommodate about 30 students.
Technology classes - Cisco (hardware) and Oracle (software). Both are new course offerings.
Homeland Security - forensics and criminal investigation. This is a new program.
Fire Science - Current program will be expanded to accommodate as many as 24 students.
Interactive Media - This is a new course offering.
Automotive Technology - This existing program will have more students and new equipment.
Welding - This is an existing program.
Manufacturing Engineering - This is a new program for machinists.
Diesel Mechanics - This is a new program.
The existing programs of Industrial Maintenance, Electrical Trades, Exploratory Trades, and Carpentry will remain. The Plumbing and HVAC programs which are now combined, will be separated.
Both the existing Cosmetology and Allied Health programs will be expanded to serve more students.
The building behind the property will serve as the classroom for the existing Natural Resources class. New agriculture courses will also be offered.
The new building will also have lab space for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics classes.
Willis said that school personnel are currently reaching out to businesses to determine future career paths. Marketing these programs to students in middle schools is also underway.
Renovations at the site will start this summer. Staff for the new school will be hired. Students will be in the new building by August 2015. The existing programs will start first, with the new courses being added as dictated by need. "What you'll have with any project that costs $20 million is that it will have its critics. This has had a lot of controversy. But that's water under the bridge. It's time now to do things for the kids," said Willis.
The school system will save $250,000 annually on rental property. The current school board operations that occur at the rented property on Elkton Boulevard will move to the current School of Technology in Bay View after the students move out.
Those departments which will move are the school warehouse, food and nutrition department, transportation department, technology warehouse, and professional development space will be relocated.