By Stephanie Lipcius Palko
Cecil County’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) was among the first to support the Cecil County Board of Education in their quest to acquire and renovate a vacant corporate center into a new School of technology.
The EDC, which is a volunteer group comprised of business leaders and elected officials, wrote a letter of support to county officials, urging them to give the school board the money needed to purchase the building.
On Wednesday morning, the EDC held their monthly meeting at the Cecil County School of Technology and EDC members said they are impressed at how the building has developed into a school with many new offerings for students.
EDC Chairman Michael Ratchford remembered back to the split decision among those on the county board on the issue of acquiring the building, describing it as a “rigorous debate.”
“To me, it’s a really great investment in the county,” Ratchford said.
School Superintendent Dr. D’Ette Devine said that the 90-acre site, which includes a large 140,000 square foot main building and a 10,000 square foot auxiliary structure cost less than $20 million to acquire and renovate for its opening at the start of the 2015/16 school year.
Dr. Devine said this expenditure was less than half of what it would have cost the county to purchase land and build a new tech school.
The old School of Technology, with a top student capacity of 200, was too small to handle the demand for courses among the county’s students. Devine said the new facility can accommodate more than 700 students. In the old days, students in 11th and 12th grade would attend half days of school at the tech school. Now, students attend every other day with the seniors on the A day and juniors on the B day.
The larger facility has allowed the School of Technology to welcome more students into the traditional courses offered and it is allowing them to add more programs of student.
With the large building and surrounding acreage, Dr. Devine said the property will serve another need in the future, when the school population grows.
“This will become our sixth high school,” she told the EDC members.
“This is our third year in this building,” said school Principal David Dollenger. Students from all five high schools are represented at the School of Technology and all students receive certification in their program, college credit or both.
Dollenger explained the various established programs and the newer ones that are being offered. A new course in career-based learning will focus on job skills during a student’s junior year in high school and place them on a job site during their senior year.
While a student’s attendance and grades will help them get into programs at the School of Technology, Dollenger said that some students have had issues in their earlier years, but need a chance to prove themselves in the technology programs.
“We do recognized the fact you can earn your way in,” he said.
The EDC members were divided into three tour groups. School Counselor Jennifer Bird led one group and explained the many connections the School of Technology forges with area businesses to get their assistance with programs and to offer on-the-job experiences and future full time jobs for the students.