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Orange County awarded grant to advance technical education in middle schools

Orange County school bus sits outside of a school on Sept. 12, 2022.

Orange County Schools received $32,265 for modernization in career and technical (CTE) education programs in its middle schools. 

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction, along with the N.C. General Assembly and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, granted $3 million in total to schools across the state for CTE programs, according to a press release. 

The programs target platforms that include media-based instructional content, content delivery or different instructional types, said Trey Michael, the senior director of the office of career and technical education at NCDPI.

These include hybrid-based guided learning projects and activities that allow students to do hands-on activities while focusing on career connections.

Shannon Braxton, the director of the arts and career & technical education at OCS, said the $32,265 was an exact quote from Paxton Patterson Labs to purchase new equipment and learning tools for the programs.

“We're going to use the money to purchase a lab system, a module system for A.L. Stanback Middle School,” Braxton said. “Through Paxton Patterson we were able to buy modules that will help the students to explore different areas of health science and health careers, which would then set them up for high demand, high pay careers in the future.”

In addition to the modules OCS purchased with the grant, Braxton said the money will also be used to train teachers about how to guide students in using the equipment. Instructors will be trained to teach dentistry, emergency medicine, medical imaging, mental health care, ophthalmology, sports medicine and therapeutic services modules.  

Braxton said the grant is supported for 60 months with no additional costs. The county is very excited to start the purchasing process for A.L. Stanback, she said. 

Marty Tobey, the assistant director for CTE regional services and reporting at the NCDPI, said this is the first year the N.C. General Assembly and the state superintendent have allotted a large sum of money for CTE programs.

“$2 million of it went to what is called the CTE modernization grant and $1 million was earmarked for what they called an ancillary grant,” Tobey said. 

Although they are slightly different, he added that both types of grants give school districts the opportunity to use funds they've been approved for through the application process.

Tobey said the CTE modernization grant was very specific, with the money intended to target sixth-grade through eighth-grade education programs.

Districts have the opportunity to spend funds to support their middle school programs, which ultimately helps students transition to high school, Tobey said. 

He explained that the NCDPI stays in communication and works closely with the N.C. General Assembly and the state superintendent because of the work they do for CTE programs in the state. 

“Our general assembly and our state superintendent are very supportive of the career and technical education program” he said. “They see the value in it, and they see the importance and the impact that it has on students in high school and once they graduate as well.”

Micheal said CTE programs are becoming increasingly important for middle school-age children.

“There's a renewed and important interest in middle school CTE programs because that's where children are starting to make a lot of their career decisions,” Michael said. “What we're finding is when they get to high school, they're focused on core academics. They're really starting to be guided down the path of what they're going to do post-graduation.”


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