Oxford High career tech building under construction
by Eddie Burkhalter
Aug 09, 2013 | 5050 views |  0 comments | 95 95 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Construction at the new Oxford High School Career Tech building. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Construction at the new Oxford High School Career Tech building. Photo by Stephen Gross.
OXFORD – Workers maneuvered tractors around a patch of barren soil in the middle of Oxford High School’s campus Friday as a major project there got underway.

Work began in late July on the school’s new career tech building. The facility is scheduled to be complete by next summer, said Eric Burrage, director of operation for the Oxford school system.

The 35,000-square-foot building will replace the existing, 84-year-old facility at Oxford High.

Burrage said the work shouldn’t affect students’ daily coming and goings. All construction has been fenced off and will remain inside those barriers during the school year, he said.

Once complete, the building will house the school’s business marketing, graphic arts, health occupation, science and technology programs. It will also be home to the school’s pre-engineering classroom and robotics lab.

The work is part of a $29.8 million, five-year capital improvement plan approved by the Oxford Board of Education in September 2012.

Also a part of that plan, the $2.5 million first phase of renovations at Coldwater Elementary were completed in March. School officials expect the second phase, an expansion of the school’s media center, to begin this fall at a cost of about $1 million.

Both the Coldwater renovations and the career tech building are being paid for by an $8 million bond issue the school system received through the city in April 2012.

The career tech building construction at Oxford High comes as state legislators this year passed a bill that will provide $50 million to career tech programs at public schools.

Known as the 21st Century Workforce Act, the bill was passed during this year’s state legislative session.

Funds provided by the act will allow school systems to purchase new career technology equipment. It cannot be used to pay for new construction, however.

- $10 million will be allocated to school systems based on the number of career tech teachers employed.

- $20 million will be allocated to schools in proportion to the number of career tech students enrolled.

- $20 million in grants will be distributed to school systems through the 21st Century Workforce fund.

Roy Bennett, student service coordinator at Oxford schools, said the $50 million bond hasn’t been issued yet, but that Oxford schools stands to benefit once the funds are in place.

“The initial portion of (the money) is allocated for us to fix holes in our equipment list,” Bennett said, speaking of the $20 million in grants that will be available through the 21st Century Workforce Fund. “Things that we need to buy. Things that are outdated.”

The act will allow Oxford schools to apply for about $126,000 to reimburse the district for technology equipment, Bennett said.

The first portion of money from the act will be available during this school year, said Eric Mackey, executive director of School Superintendents of Alabama.

Career tech courses are a great opportunity for students, Mackey said, but many have an outdated view of what career tech programs are. Many more kinds of courses are offered today in career tech programs than in years past, Mackey explained, from computer programing to gourmet cooking.

And career tech programs have a positive impact on dropout rates, Mackey said.

The graduation rate for Alabama students who earn two or more credits in career tech courses is more than 90 percent, according to the Alabama Department of Education.

“There are just so many opportunities out there now,” Mackey said. “It’s all about getting kids engaged.”

Future construction projects being discussed by the school board include a new field house and stadium renovation at Oxford High, a high school track to be located at the planned Oxford City sports complex, and renovation of Oxford High’s gym and cafeteria.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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