Career Center sees boost in enrollment

The Washington County Career Center is once again seeing an increase in students this school year, board members said at their regular meeting Thursday evening.

Administrators reported a current head count for the upcoming school year at about 515 students entering into the high school portion of the school, up just slightly from last year but up by about 70 students from previous years.

The change in the economy and the state of Ohio’s push for more career and technical-based education were cited as reasons for the increase.

“We were over 500 last year as well, but this week we’ve gone in increments where a few will go back to their home school and then we get three more,” said Secondary Director Mike Elliott. “And tradition shows there will be some that show up on day one that we don’t even know about.”

Administrators cited Gov. John Kasich, who recently put his signature on pro-career center legislation that extends career-based education to students as young as seventh grade and another bill that included the option of a workforce certificate for graduation, for one of the reasons behind the numbers.

“As enrollment goes down around the county, ours is maintaining,” Elliott said.

Assistant Director Tony Huffman said the upcoming year and last year are both evidence of a growing popularity in career and technical education.

“If you go back a couple years ago, we were in the mid-400s,” he said. “So we’re around 70 students more than years back, so we’re running very high.”

Board member Charlie Schilling said he has noticed more of an interest in the type of education the career center offers recently.

“We had a gentleman come in to (Fort Frye) and talk trades and what’s available and how the economy is going, and when you look at what’s going on out here at (the career center), you can definitely see it,” Schilling said.

Discussion on smoking

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Superintendent Dennis Blatt raised the topic of an all-out smoking ban on campus, due to a recent citation the school received after someone was found smoking in a restricted area.

“We have to consider our adult population,” Blatt said. “Will they stop coming here if we ban smoking on our property?”

Adult Director David Combs noted that the target demographic of the adult education programs is students in their late 20s to 50s.

“For people that are 40 to 45-plus, I think you will deter them from coming here if you shut down smoking,” Schilling said. “They grew up in a time when smoking wasn’t even frowned upon.”

Currently, smoking on school property is completely banned for high school students, but adult students often get away with smoking in cars and secluded areas.

“We police it as much as possible,” Blatt said. “Our staff cannot smoke on campus, and we make it clear that they need to drive off campus for it.”

Board members threw around various ideas, like setting up designated smoking areas and putting up more signs to make sure people know the campus is smoke-free, but any all-out ban would include any square foot of space the school owns.

“I don’t believe it’s just an adult ed thing,” Combs said. “Parents sit out in the car and smoke and workers smoke outside the building.”

Any changes to the school’s policy are only in a discussion period right now, as administrators talked about the idea of putting out surveys to see what the response would be.

“I’d just hate to see our enrollment go down because of it,” Schilling said.