3/27/16 Big ideas for Graham High School

Big ideas for Graham High School
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 3/27/16    
Reprinted with permission.      

   The future of Graham High School is getting a lot of thought these days.

   A firefighter academy starts there next year, and could soon be followed by a police academy, sixth- to 12th-grade skilled trade academy, International Baccalaureate program, and at least part of the new Alamance-Burlington Early College.

   “As long as Graham High School survives in some way, I’m fine,” Graham Mayor Jerry Peterman said.

   Peterman and some City Council members have become a presence at school board meetings lately asking the district to focus on improving schools in Graham, which often have come in on the wrong end of state assessments. So Peterman is happy to see the district make Graham High a success, even if it’s not as a high school.

   The Alamance-Burlington School System entered into an agreement with the Graham Fire Department and Alamance County to start a firefighter academy in the school next fall. It could be just the first phase of a municipal services academy where students could learn about policing or possibly even city planning.

   The district’s evolving plans to redistrict ABSS high schools have, for the past couple iterations, included ending Graham High’s career as a regular high school and converting it to a skilled-trades academy where students would learn carpentry, welding, HVAC, electrical work and auto-collision repair — all areas where there is a need for more skilled workers.

   This would be different from the programs at the Career and Technical Education Center, said Kent Byrd, ABSS’ senior executive director of secondary school leadership. CTEC takes students from all ABSS high schools and teaches job skills like computer programing, nursing and culinary. These days, about 80 percent of CTEC courses have a STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — focus, Byrd said.

   The Alamance-Burlington Early College is just finishing its first year, but there is a lot of interest with 170 students applying to join the high school at Alamance Community College next year, Byrd said. The community college has space for 250 to 300, and eventually students could take their first two years of early college at Graham and finish 11th and 12th grades at ACC, where they would take mostly college courses.

   “Many of these programs would lead a student to be in a position to move to ACC or any community college, or even four-year college,” Byrd said.

   While he said that should be the goal of any high school, a focused curriculum with a definite goal after high school can help some students focus on their futures in a way they wouldn’t in a general high school.

   One program Byrd thinks people forgot, especially in light    of the redistricting proposal, is the International Baccalaureate program planned to start at Graham High School in 2018.

   It would be open to students from Southern Alamance and Eastern Alamance high schools and, assuming it’s built, the new high school in Hawfields.

   Williams High School aims to kick off its IB program in 2017.