Grant County schools to build technology center

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By Ryan Naus

Seeing that their students need to be skilled once they leave the halls of Grant County High School, the school district has approved plans to build a career and technology center.

The center, which will be a 34,000 square foot addition to the high school, will cost an estimated $9.4 million.

“Our school board decided to foot the bill,” Superintendent Michael Hibbett said. “The funding will come out of our capital building project money. You can only use that money for capital projects. You can’t pay salaries with it. We have money sitting out there that we can’t use for anything other than construction. We just can’t sit on it. We have to move our high school forward and our community forward.”

“These courses will be a big success for our students and community,” school board chairperson Diane Reed said. “The Technology Center is about more than just science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s about learning real skills, solving real problems, and making real discoveries about the world. Children are our future, and deserve the best we can offer them.”

The center will allow students to take classes in areas such as health careers, information technology, electrical technology, welding technology, automotive technology, bio-medical and pre-engineering.

Because of the demand for skilled and educated workers, Hibbett believes that this center will help prepare Grant County students for their future in the work force.

“Students in the 21st century are seeing that you have to have technical skills to be successful in our society for middle-income jobs,” Hibbett said. “They are finding out that a person without any kind of training will struggle throughout their adult life to make a living. This career and technical center will address those issues for our kids and we don’t have to go to somebody else’s county to do it.”

Currently, about 40 Grant County students travel to the Boone County Area Technology Center, where they study for half a day sandwiched around 40-minute commutes.

“There are a lot of barriers for students in Grant County to get more advanced skills,” Hibbett said. “For us, it’s important to look at our demographics. In our county alone, we need more college graduates and high school graduates. This is from a study done about five years ago by the career and technical colleges, identifying our need as a community for a technology school.”

Hibbett takes pride in knowing that this will be the only four-year program in Northern Kentucky.

“We’re on the verge of creating a unique high school,” Hibbett said. “For example, a freshman can walk in and start their program that first year with preliminary classes geared towards finishing with four years of knowledge about any particular area. The students want a challenge.”

The school district is following the example of Rockcastle County, which has a four-year career and technical center. Ninety percent of their seniors who graduate take one or more career and technical courses. Their graduation rate is over 93 percent, 10 points higher than Grant County’s.

“They are the same kind of district that we are,” Hibbett said. “They are semi-rural with not a lot of industry within their county. Their students needed the opportunity. That’s what I recognize is our biggest need. When I talk to our students about what they are looking forward to or what they think we need, they tell you that they need opportunities to make a difference in their lives. To me, a career and technology center geared towards 21st century skills is what they need. This will have a direct effect on this community for the next 50 years, in my judgment.”

The district also plans to keep the school open at night for adults to advance their education in these areas.

“It’s going to be an asset for the county because the skills training it will provide will help our high school students and people who are out of high school,” Wade Gutman, executive director of the Industrial Development Authority, said. “It will give us a trained labor pool for companies that are wanting to locate to our area. This enhances the county’s ability to recruit new industry.”

Although the technology center is not a regional center, it may be possible for Williamstown students to attend, but the school boards would have to work out the details because it is completely funded by the Grant County school board. Williamstown currently has seven students who travel to Boone County.

“I’m looking forward to speaking to Mr. Hibbett and Matt Morgan to allow access for our students,” Williamstown superintendent Sally Skinner said. “If our students had the opportunity, it would be a benefit. Our board of education would be supportive of working out the details.”

The school board is planning to accept bids in June and award the bid during the July school board meeting, with a provision that construction would start immediately.

“It’s time for our people to recognize that Grant County is a district that you want to bring your kids to go to school in because we’re going to be ahead of the curve in developing students to be able to go where they need to go when they leave here,” Hibbett said.