Lincoln County Schools to expand skilled trade and technical offerings to area students

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LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. - Lincoln County Schools is making some changes that will result in more opportunities for area students.

Director of Schools, Bill Heath, said by moving 9th grade from the Lincoln County 9th Grade Academy to Lincoln County High School, they will create space for a variety of uses in the former 9th Grade Academy buildings.

"Move those 9th graders to Lincoln County High School, so Lincoln County High School will now become a 9 through 12 school," he explained.

Heath explained why that's a better option.

"We were running buses back and forth throughout the day. So students could take classes at the high school that weren't offered at the 9th Grade Academy. We were running so many buses, and to be honest with you back around 2004 there were about 100 more kids in high school than we will have next year when the school year starts. We had a reduced enrollment over the past few years."

He said there is extra space to accommodate freshmen into the high school now, but it may feel a bit cramped until the new STEM wing, including new science labs, is ready the following year. This opens up the other building for new things. But the plan for what to do there has taken 6-8 months, he said.

"The results of that are to create a situation where our students can take skilled trade and technical courses during their high school career and postsecondary right here in our community," he said. "Right now our students have to drive 25 or 30 miles to Shelbyville to take postsecondary skilled trade courses."

Heath said it was a goal of his to change that by reducing the roadblock for those students who want to further their careers in technology and skilled trades.

The Tennessee College of Applied Technology will lease some space in the former 9th Grade Academy.

"During this next school year, they will be offering cybersecurity, computer networking. Future plans are as early as the next school year in 2021 to have a full welding certification program," he stated.

Lincoln County Schools is also launching a virtual school this upcoming school year based out of the building.

"We already have students registered where they will take all their courses online, and we have a monitoring system in place," he said.

The school system will also allow industries to use some of the rooms for training.

Heath added that the school system also has longer-term plans to create the Lincoln Central Academy.

"What we envision, within a year or so, to start almost a middle college concept with our juniors and seniors who know they want to be in the tech fields or the skilled trade fields in the future, they can decide to transfer to that school, take their core academics, and graduate high school hopefully already having certification in welding and machining. They can be certified and get that job immediately out of high school," he stated.

Heath also envisions a teacher training center there, to help the district attract and keep certified teachers by training them locally from start to finish.

"We want to start a program where we can maybe begin while kids are in high school and maybe take all four years of college, right here, on our campus. And start working for us with some signing bonuses and stuff. I know that's long-term planning, but that's one of the programs we are looking at," he said.

Overall, Heath said this is a golden opportunity to discuss needs he's been aware of for years, using space the district already has available. Minimal renovations would be required on the district's end, although the TCAT center would be working on its space to create those areas.

Heath was recently named Superintendent of the Year by the Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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