The current career tech center is housed in a facility built in 1929 and after two renovations, the building still does not meet the needs of the school, said Roy Bennett, student services coordinator for Oxford High. All but the school’s collision repair classes will be moving into the new, two-story building.
Plans for the project are being finalized and will have to be approved by the Alabama Building Commission before bids from contractors can be opened, Bennett said. The district expects the building to cost around $4 million.
In April, the Oxford City Council entered into an agreement with the school system to borrow $8 million from investors through a bond issue. That money will pay for the career tech building and renovations currently under way at Coldwater Elementary School. It’s all part of the district’s five-year, $29.8 million capital improvement plan approved by the Oxford Board of Education in September. Other projects on that plan include technology updates throughout the school system, and a new athletics facility at Oxford High.
Once complete, bridges will connect the new building to the main high school campus and the adjacent media center. Inside, the new building will house the business marketing (which includes business technology, accounting and cooperative education), graphic arts, health occupations and science, technology, engineering and math programs.
Planned television production classes will be an addition to the curriculum, Bennett said, and preliminary architectural drawings show room for a studio and classroom for that program. The graphic arts classroom will be located next to the studio, so that both programs can share equipment.
The reason for the new career tech building — in addition to the need to replace the aging facility — is that the classes have become popular with the students, Bennett said, and lessons they’re learning in them can be applied to all kinds of professions.
Real-world problem-solving skills, and the ability to think on one’s feet are “workplace skills that our kids really need,” Bennett said, and skills that career tech classes teach in abundance.
Around 130 students took career tech classes at Oxford High last year, Bennett said, and he estimated that more than a third of the school’s students graduate each year having taken at least three career tech courses.
There are currently no plans to add additional career tech teachers, but an additional health occupations teacher was added to the school’s staff this year. That program will get a much-improved lab area and additional technology to help mirror the changing world of health care, Bennett said.
“This is one more piece of our big puzzle, in trying to give the absolute best education we can to our students,” Bennett said.