JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. - The Jackson County Board of Education recently approved the purchase of a 66,000 square foot building and 30 acres in a 4-1 vote.
School officials told WHNT News 19 they hope it will better prepare students for the future and keep them close to home.
“In my opinion, it’s the greatest workforce development since TVA came to the valley,” said curriculum and instruction supervisor AJ Buckner. “It’s going to be a true, life changer for all the kids that come through here.”
The new so-called innovation center will be a revitalized tech school where students can take dual enrollment, AP, core, and fine arts classes, or be involved in a STEM academy.
“The students are our future and we at Jackson County board of education, want to provide them with opportunities to have better-paying jobs and want them to stay in Jackson County and live in Jackson County,” said Superintendent Kevin Dukes.
Dukes and Buckner said having a center like this will give their students those opportunities.
“We know that the trades are where the money is, that’s where the good-paying jobs and we want to encourage our kids to go that route,” said Dukes.
“Right now, our students are getting a good traditional education but it’s not preparing them truly for the workforce and so we know that we need to up our stem education, we need to increase robotics, computer programming, cybersecurity, with the FBI coming, with Google just up the road, all of the technical aspects jobs Toyota Mazda will bring, just we want our students to be able to fill those jobs to live a happy productive life,” said Buckner.
They told WHNT News 19 the new center will not only benefit the local economy but also provide workers for those growing industries and maybe even bring more to town.
The district spent $850,000 on the property. With the potential to put in a second floor, there’s plenty of room for the more than 7,500 students it could benefit across all six Jackson County plus Scottsboro High School.
"We’ve been fiscally responsible, so we’re not having to take out a loan or anything so we’re just paying for it straight up. The question is, 'Is the purchase of this going to take away from our local schools?' The answer is no," said Dukes.
Dukes said buying this property was cheaper to do than renovating and updating the current tech school.
However, he said they still plan to use what they already have since it houses the IT center, the alternative school, and several good shops.
Dukes said he would love to have it open the center by fall of 2021, but said they do not have a set timeline complete just yet.