Next fall, students at Bryan Station High and Fayette County’s new high school will major in subjects, just as they would in college.
Bryan Station already has an Information Technology Academy within the school. Principal James McMillin will ask the School Based Decision Making council to consider implementing academies for all students, which could offer such majors as business management, entrepreneurship, engineering, medical science, manufacturing, education and hospitality services.
McMillin said the academies will be designed to make learning relevant to students, answering the oft-asked classroom questions, “Why is this important to me as a kid? Why is this important to what I want to do with my life?”
Likening the new structure to a university, McMillin said, “This will be the University of Bryan Station High School, and then you’ll have these little colleges within it that students will go into.”
Officials at the district’s four other high schools — Lafayette, Henry Clay, Tates Creek, and Paul Laurence Dunbar — are also going to be exploring whether they want to open career academies. High schools will generally have three or four career academies. It has not yet been determined what academies the new high school will offer. That will depend on work force data showing the needs of area businesses and industries, said Kim Lyon, the school district’s strategic partnership manager.
Lexington’s non-profit Business and Education Network made it possible for the district to benefit from an education innovation initiative from Ford Motor Company called Ford Next Generation Learning. Area businesses and educators will work together to better prepare students to meet workforce needs.
Fayette County Public Schools will have a large-scale, coordinated system focused on student success in college, careers and life, Lyon said.
“The outcome we envision is that every student when they graduate from Fayette County high schools that they have a well-defined idea of their next steps in life and that they are well prepared for that, whether they are entering a career or they are planning to go to a post-secondary institution,” she said. “Our goal is to give every student all the opportunities and all the experiences that we can bring around them to make them successful.”
“This is a game-changer for our students and our entire community,” Superintendent Manny Caulk said Monday. “For the first time, we have leaders from Fayette County Public Schools, business and industry, community civic organizations and institutions of higher learning committed to transforming high school education. “
On Monday, at Commerce Lexington headquarters, principals from Fayette County’s high schools and technical centers and other district officials gathered with business leaders and college officials to create a profile of the skills a student should have when they graduate. Representatives of banks, corporations such as Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Commerce Lexington, small manufacturers, community organizations and others met for a “visioning session.”
Lyon said school officials are asking businesses: “What is it that you are looking for in employees today? What types of jobs do we need to be preparing our students for?” Some business sectors are struggling to find skilled workers, she said.
The career academy will have the academic rigor of college preparatory programs with career and technical education in a smaller learning community, Lyon said.
Some students, after attending the academies, will earn state certifications that will enable them to go straight to work after graduating. In other cities, the Ford program is seeing increased numbers of students graduating with industry certifications and college credits.
Bryan Station is the furthest along in developing the academies. McMillin and other Fayette district officials recently traveled to Nashville to visit a career academy there.
“Fundamentals of teaching is one that I wanted to put in there,” McMillin said. “I want to grow our own teachers. I’d love to have some of these kids coming back and teaching at Bryan Station.”
Other planned majors include: engineering technology design, manufacturing engineering technology technician, robotics and automation, and allied health professionals. Allied health professionals can include doctors, dental hygienists, diagnostic medical sonographers, dietitians, medical technologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, radiographers, respiratory therapists, and speech language pathologists. McMillin said there are plans for students to be able to major in pre-nursing, pharmacy technician, culinary and food services, and hospitality services.
Students would enter the career academies and choose a major for their sophomore, junior and senior years. All of a student’s core subjects will be taught through the lens of their major. Under the new learning model, students can also take electives including arts classes and physical education, he said.
Teachers will have opportunities to meet with business partners and ask, “How do I teach English through a graphic design lens or an IT lens?” McMillin said. Students will learn various pieces of their chosen major in math or social studies classes, for example, he said.