Board discusses CTC and future expansion during special called work session

Principals Ralph Halcomb and Anthony Pennington are shown sitting in front of Board members discussing their vision for the CTC.

During a work session and special called meeting held Thursday evening, September 15, members of the Knox County Board of Education heard input on the vision of programs at Knox County Career and Technical Center and found themselves quickly sharing their own vision of what opportunities exist for Knox County Public Schools.

High School Principals Provide Input

In attendance were Jeff Frost, principal at Knox Central High School, Anthony Pennington, principal at Lynn Camp Middle High School, and Ralph Halcomb, principal at Knox County Career and Technical Center.  All three principals were given time by the Board to share what their vision is for career programs and pathways at the renovated CTC.

  • Pennington was the first to share his vision, stating that there were programs that Lynn Camp can no longer offer due to staff being used to fill other core academic requirements. The school has ended their engineering program and is phasing out biomedical sciences.  He shared that if the programs could not be included in the renovated CTC, that Knox Central offering biomedical and Lynn Camp offering engineering and both sharing students would be a possibility he would like to see.  He concluded by sharing other resources, such as a family and consumer pathway that Lynn Camp has that could benefit all students.
  • Halcomb was in quick agreement with Pennington, stating that moving biomedical, engineering, and other programs from the high schools to the CTC would be a win for everyone. It would allow more focus on core academics and interventions at the high schools while the CTC would take a few, but not all, of their programs and combine them at the center.
  • Frost was quick to say, “I agree” when it was his turn to share thoughts. He echoed many of the concerns of Pennington, including those of needing a true home economics pathway within the family and consumer program.  He shared that the health sciences and biomedical sciences are among the program areas that students have the most questions about and initial interest in.  He also shared concerns about scheduling that the schools would have to work out to ensure minimum loss of instructional time as students go and come from the CTC.

Principals Ralph Halcomb and Anthony Pennington are shown sitting in front of Board members discussing their vision for the CTC.

Current Offerings at the Career and Technical Center

This semester over 150 students are enrolled in classes at the CTC that provide dual credit, the highest number ever.  Program areas currently include automotive, carpentry, electricity, business ecommerce, health sciences, and computer science. In addition to dual credit, students can earn industry level certifications in all programs.

“There is an excitement about the changes coming to the CTC,” said Halcomb.  “This year, our first block of the day, has more students and is packed out.”  The first block mostly consists of freshmen and sophomore students.

Discussions also continued that perhaps dual credit academic courses, such as math and English, would need to be added to the facility to help with the scheduling concerns expressed during the meeting.

Coming Attractions: New Programs

“I feel that the biomedical program, early childhood, and teaching pathway are good programs to add to the CTC that will generate interest of other students to attend classes at the facility,” Superintendent Jeremy Ledford shared following the principal presentations.

“We are establishing a change in culture, and it is already starting.  We want students to be able to drive to the campus.  We want offerings for females, males, and of various career and trade areas.”

In addition to those mentioned by the superintendent, HVAC – heating, cooling, and ventilation, is a new program that has never been offered in Knox County.

“We hope to work with the new Southeast Community College in Barbourville to bridge from high school to college with HVAC, welding, and other programs in common between the two.  Students will not have to go far to attend higher ed.”

Renovation and Future Expansion

Sean Mathews, senior architect with Summit Engineering, was present to answer any questions from the Board.  One concern that Mathews brought forward was the limited opportunity to expand beyond the current footprint of the facility.  Parking was one example Mathews shared, saying that the new facility will take up most of the parking that is on-site.

Mathews also shared information about the demolition of parts of the main building, leaving essentially a core.  He said at times you would be able to see completely through the building while construction was taking place.

Board member Jim Miles questioned Mathews about the cost of demolition verses building new from scratch.   While Mathews did not have a firm number, Board members estimated that $3 to $4 million would go towards that alone out of the $10 million that was received for renovations from the state.

Between limits on future expansion at the current site, and the difference in cost between building new and renovating old, the conversation took a complete turn.  The question was raised, can the Board use the $10 million from the state that was earmarked in HB 556 for new construction?

Frank Shelton, coordinator for Career and Technical Education programs, went to work following the meeting and received the answer on Friday morning that yes, the funds could be used towards new construction as long as it is construction of the local area vocational school and no other projects.

“The staff at the School Facilities Construction said that they knew school districts, such as ours, would face these type of issues when looking at renovations.  Therefore they make sure the language of renovation included the possibility of a new facility,” said Shelton.

What’s Next?

The Board tabled all items on the special called agenda to start the process of locating potential sites for a new Knox County Career and Technical Center and the development of new site plans by the architect.

Superintendent Ledford shared that the Board is looking for a property that could be used not only for the CTC but for future needs including a replacement central administration building.

“The direction we were going in has definitely taken a turn.  A new facility designed for easy expansion would benefit the community for years to come.”