PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Hundreds of students are turned away each year from Wood County Schools technical programs because there is simply no room.
The Wood County Technical Center is located on the campus of Parkersburg South High School and serves students throughout Wood County through a variety of technical programs, including culinary arts, broadcasting, nursing, automotive repair and welding.
Wood County Schools administrators say each year about 250 students are unable to enroll in programs at the Wood County Technical Center because of space restrictions. These are not students who did not qualify for the programs, they said, but are eliminated from consideration simply because classes are full.
“There is simply no room,” said Superintendent John Flint. “These are cutoff numbers based upon square footage. We have 250 students each year who apply to these programs and are turned down through no fault of their own.
“Those students deserve to be educated at a vocational program in Wood County Schools.”
The state Department of Education, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, West Virginia Community and Technical College System, and the West Virginia Governor’s Office have all called for an increase in high-school level technical education opportunities for students.
“These are programs where students hit the ground running upon graduation,” Flint said. “These are good paying, high demand jobs.”
The Wood County Schools’ $41 million bond call, which goes before voters for approval Tuesday, includes nearly $10 million for expansion and renovation of the technical center. This would include a multi-purpose room that will be utilized by the child care program participants, a security link between PSHS and the technical center and expansion of Therapeutic Services program. Additional classroom space will be added to move the culinary arts and broadcasting programs out of Parkersburg South and into the technical center. The expansion will close the existing Adult Learning Center at the former Lincoln Elementary School and provide adult programs at the technical center.
“These are things that need to be done to provide the best instruction and opportunities for our students,” Flint said.
There is a caveat: Wood County Schools’ $51 million facilities plan is based on at least $10 million in funding from the state School Building Authority to help offset the cost of a new Williamstown-area elementary school. If the SBA is unwilling or unable to offer funding, the district’s $41 million bond includes language to scale back work at the technical center.
“The plan would be to remove the technical center part of the project, and then seek funding from the SBA for expansion of the technical center in the coming years,” said Assistant Superintendent Mike Fling, who oversees facilities for Wood County Schools and has been the lead administrator on the bond call.
However, the Wood County Technical Center would not be left out entirely, Fling said. The change in scope would leave $1.5 million unspent, and the bond dictates that money would instead go toward increasing safety and security at the facility.
“We would build an enclosure between the two buildings (PSHS and the technical center), and create a common area where students could wait for the bus without being out in the elements,” Fling said. “That has been a safety concern anyway, and this would still give us the money to address that.”