Vermont: New Tech Center's Focus Is Giving Students 21st-Century Skills

Judy Hartnett's picture
Monday, January 30, 2012

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 on 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.

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