By Sheridan Block
Following graduation, many high school students aren’t exactly sure what to do with the rest of their lives, and that’s okay.
Ouray and Ridgway guidance counselor Rick Williams said not every student will go to college. While some may continue on to pursue a four year-plus degree, some may join the military, and others will jump right into the work force.
In order to bridge the gap between high school graduation and a future career, Williams presented the idea of a dual enrollment program with the Delta Montrose Technical College to the Ouray School Board on Monday evening.
“I think (the program) is phenomenal,” said Williams, adding that it is a valuable option that would get students into good paying jobs when they graduate.
The program would offer junior and senior level students the chance to learn more about specific professions and to receive a hands-on training experience that will help them in their future careers. When students graduate, they’ll not only have a diploma but a technical degree and often times a job waiting for them, said Williams.
Neighboring school districts including Montrose, Delta, Hotchkiss and Paonia already participate in the program, so Ouray students will be in classes with peers from other high schools. Students will enroll in specific courses, earning credit hours while fulfilling graduation requirements, and attend classes five days a week at DMTC. Courses offered will include Certified Nursing Assistant, business, auto-mechanics and cosmetology.
Williams polled last year’s sophomore classes at Ouray School and found that four students expressed an interest in the program. He estimated that students could enroll for courses during the second semester if they were truly interested and dedicated to participating.
While the school board believes the program is an excellent avenue for students, some concerns were raised including transportation and costs to Ouray school.
DMTC is approximately 50 miles north of Ouray and with gas prices on the rise, having students drive themselves to and from Delta may be a turnoff to the program, said Williams. Instead, he offered the solution of having a driver transport participating students. Superintendent Scott Pankow mentioned that while transporting students may be a hard cost for the school, it may be an investment that will pay off in the long run.
Board member Kentee Pasek added that she was concerned with the financial impact on the school, especially with the upcoming vote on Amendment 66 next week.
“I’m very cautious about anything because I would hate to start a new program and not be able to follow through,” she said. Board member Jerry Hellman argued that it’s likely schools won’t know the exact effects of Amendment 66 even after the elections.
Williams reported that the cost for enrollment is $70 per credit hour, however DMTC will refund the school up to $30 per credit hour as well as handle all the paperwork. Credit hours vary depending on the program students choose to take. For example, the CNA program is condensed into six months and would be 18 credit hours, while the auto mechanics program could span up to two years at 40 credit hours. Additionally, costs for supplies and tools would need to be factored in, though Williams said the board could decide whether to pass those expenses to the students as they will be using them well after graduation.
Middle school teacher Greg Foy added that the financial risk is not as bad when compared to the risk of students dropping out, which is an outcome that is “just as real.”
“We have a commitment to make sure we don’t have a dropout rate that increases starting next year,” said Pankow.
Pankow requested that the board approve moving forward with the initiative, allowing Williams and staff to verify details and engage interested students.
“If we can get this established, this is exactly what we’ve been looking for,” said chair Mike Fedel.
In other business Monday, the school board:
- recognized middle school math and social studies teacher Greg Foy as teacher of the month. While Foy was grateful for the title, he expressed that it is just as important to recognize the teachers and staff who taught students before they were in his class.
- celebrated the high school and middle school cross-country teams for their performances in the state championships.
- approved the French Club Paris trip in March. Foreign language teacher Taylor Chase reported that the club was able to raise all the necessary funds this year and has purchased tickets and accommodations for the trip. Because the club was able to book airfare early, they were able to save nearly $260 per ticket.
The next regular school board meeting will be Monday, Nov. 18 in the Ouray School Media Center.