1/29/12 Well-Rounded Studies

The Culinary Arts kitchen.
Digital Media teacher Rebecca Meacham assists students Aliyah Cohen and Addison Neese at the Alamance-Burlington School Syste
Career and Technical School front.

Sam Roberts / Times-News

Clockwise from top: Digital Media teacher Rebecca Meacham assists students Aliyah Cohen and Addison Neese at the Alamance-Burlington School System’s new Career and Technical School in Burlington.

The Culinary Arts kitchen.

Career and Technical School front.

Well-Rounded Studies
Alamance County’s first new high school since 1971 offers training in marketable skills that augment traditional courses
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 1/29/12     
Reprinted with permission.

 The curved glass and metal front of the Alamance-Burlington School System Career and Technical Education Center isn’t quite futuristic enough to be described as Jetsons-style architecture.

 But the modern look underscores the center’s focus on technology and what the system describes as 21st century skills that will help students succeed.

 Students arrived for the first time Tuesday, with the center’s operations starting small.

 “I’m running at about 100,” Principal Heather Blackmon said Wednesday about student enrollment, with some students still signing up. For the first semester, she said, enrollment will stay below 150, while the system works out transportation issues and plans carefully to expand offerings there.

 “Our goal is to pack this place with 450 students,” both in the morning and afternoon, Blackmon said.

 Students will typically spend half a day at the center. In some cases, they’ll get instruction from a teacher there for part of that time, while also taking an online class.

 Students already at the center are studying culinary arts, automotive technology, health care and digital media. The center plans to expand offerings in those areas while adding subjects such as engineering and scientific visualization, a field Blackmon explains as “basically game design — it’s a lot of 3-D work on the computer.”

 Classrooms are paired with lab areas for programs such as automotive technology, where students will use three service bays to work on vehicles. Other lab areas will allow students to do video production and learn medical skills.

 Though there have been major expansions in the system’s six traditional high schools, the center is the first new high school built by the local public schools since Cummings High School opened in 1971. A smaller non-traditional school, the Alamance-Burlington Middle College, operates at Alamance Community College.

 Inside the center Thursday, students were learning in an almost cavernous commercial-style kitchen.

 “This is by far going to be our most popular (program),” Blackmon said.

 Tiffanie King, who previously taught at Cummings, is teaching culinary arts at the center. On Thursday, she was getting students familiar with the kitchen’s equipment, with plans to start cooking this week.

 With four ovens, a walk-in cooler and freezer, gleaming utensils and plenty of storage space, “We have one of the nicest facilities, bar none,” King said. “I don’t think there’s another (public high school) in the state with this type of kitchen.”

 Blackmon, previously an assistant principal at Southern Alamance High School, said the center is a tool to round out students’ education beyond traditional subjects such as English, math and social studies.

 “My focus is students getting skills beyond what they can get in the traditional high schools. There’s a demand in our work force for certain skills,” she said, including problem-solving and teamwork in addition to knowledge specific to a certain career.

 Superintendent Lillie Cox said the facility’s space is adaptable. As the most indemand skills change in the mid- to long-term, she said, programs at the center can change as well.

 Blackmon and others were pleased students were excited about the center.

 “I have to admit, this is a really nice school,” said Joseph Dimont, who is one of the center’s culinary students.

 “They said kids were coming in here taking their own pictures as they were coming in the school,” school system spokeswoman Jenny Faulkner said.