Approved list currently includes 260 courses.

In the spring of the year, as school districts are making plans for the future, Boards of Education may be asked to approve some additional course offerings — usually two or three or even half a dozen.

Last Monday night, the USD 382 Board of Education gave approval for any class that may be offered on the Career and Technical Education Approved Course List — currently 260 post-secondary classes, with about 90 of them available online, according to Steve Blankenship, PHS principal and assistant superintendent for career and technical education.

"It's an exciting time to be part of the CTE department," Blankenship said, referring to legislative changes in 2012 that aimed to make more vocational programs available to high school students and increase the percentage of students who are career-ready at graduation, at no charge to students and with financial incentives for schools.

With the rising costs of college tuition, that can add up to savings of $3,000 to $5,000 for students who take several college classes.

Blankenship explained: A sophomore student at Pratt High (he has one in mind, but didn't name him) wants to go into the automotive field. PHS offers an automotive course, and in addition, he could schedule about 10 Pratt Community College courses over the next three years. When he graduates from high school, the student could get a job in "just about any auto shop in the country," Blankenship predicted.

"It's all free," he added. "You can't beat that deal."

In partnership with PCC, high school students can take classes leading to certification as a nursing assistant (CNA), which includes an internship at Pratt Regional Medical Center. The high school graduate would be ready to go to work, have the first step in a a licensed or registered nursing program completed, or might decide nursing wasn't a good fit, but had been exposed to other opportunities in the health field.

The CTE program allows students to explore a lot of opportunities without financial risk, and may give them a better idea of where they're headed if they enroll for post-secondary education, Blankenship said.

High school and college schedules don't always match up, he acknowledged, but said, "we find ways to make it work, and the college has been great to work with us."

As Gov. Brownback's career and technical education initiative was being discussed last January in the Kansas Legislature, local educators were concerned they would lose funding for vocational classes already being offered. That has not occurred — a provision that eliminated funding for high school classes that are similar to college or vocational school classes within a 30-mile radius was stricken from the final bill.

So instead of losing classes, Pratt High is considering adding more.

At Monday's board meeting, Blankenship briefly discussed expanding wood shop classes taught by Bryan Pixler to also include an emphasis in the construction trade. Students currently work on individual projects, like furniture items. If the program were expanded, they could also create sheds or gazebos for people in the community, sell them and put the money back into the program.

Building a shed would teach many of the framing and roofing principles that directly translate to building houses, Blankenship noted. There are no current plans for PHS students to move into that field. Larger schools with more students and a bigger housing market have been able to do so, but Blankenship didn't think that plan would work in Pratt.

A construction trades program would require reconfiguring current space, not a building project, Blankenship said.

He also mentioned the possibility of similar expansions in welding and automotive programs that would "get kids involved in more real-life enterprises."

Career and technical education gives kids a better chance to compete for jobs, Blankenship said, although noting that a lot of schools are offering similar programs.

"We have to be better," he said.

He also noted that Pratt has an advantage in being close enough for students to drive to classes at PCC.

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