Representatives from the State Office of Education, in their first presentation to a local school board, received hearty support for a proposal to build three new applied technology sites along the Wasatch Front.
The Granite Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution in favor of the three proposed sites - two applied technology centers and a smaller satellite site - saying the need for such education was not being met by existing facilities."The Board of Education of the Granite School District has the charge of educating more than 76,000 students and the board recognizes that career preparation is an essential part of that education," the resolution states. "The opportunity for Granite students to receive equitable and appropriate applied technology education is currently limited because of a lack of facilities and programs . . . "
The board's statement was confirmed by a study completed by Ohio State University, released last Friday, indicating the Wasatch Front area lacks the applied technology education services to meet the increasing demands for skilled workers.
The study stated the metropolitan area lacks space and equipment to accommodate students' needs, and what facilities are available (primarily accessed through Salt Lake Community College) are often not conducive to high school students' schedules.
The new facilities, two of which are proposed along the Wasatch Front with the smaller site in Tooele, will fill those needs, said Robert Brems, associate state school superintendent of applied technology education.
"The applied technology centers will fit a unique niche. It is not designed to compete with existing programs at Granite schools but to complement them and fill in the gaps."
Board members seemed thrilled by the prospect.
"This resolution is a nice thing," said board member Robert Arnold. "but is there anything more we can do? Something more aggressive?"
The new centers' mission will be to provide open-entry, open-exit, competency-based work-force education. That means high school students will have an easier time fitting applied technology education programs into their schedules. The ATCs will also offer instruction free of charge to high school students, and minimal tuition rates to adults.
The ATCs will also allow schools along the Wasatch Front to consolidate their programs, alleviating the often high costs of such programs to individual schools.
Current statistics indicate that of the 188,000 students served in the five-district area, only 1.5 percent are enrolled in applied technology courses. Compare that with the area served by the Bridgerland Applied Technology Center in Cache County, where nearly 24 percent of the 38,000 students took applied technology courses.
"How on earth did we get so far behind?" board member Robert Arnold asked. "We're 20 years behind . . . I feel like we've been in Socrates' cave or something."
Similar presentations will be made to the four remaining area districts (Jordan, Salt Lake City, Murray and Tooele), Brem said, hopefully with the same results.
"Ideally, we want all five school boards to form resolutions in support of the ATCs. We'd like to have a common voice singing off the same sheet of music."