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posted: 6/5/2018 5:33 AM

U-46 board reviews ideas for more career academies

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The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board Monday night reviewed possible new educational career pathways and an audit of existing career and technical education programs.

Officials propose creating new high school academies or pathways providing students the opportunity to experience more integrated and project-based learning. New academies could be established for the freshman class of 2020-21 and enroll 400 to 600 students each.

Among the academy ideas being vetted: hospitality and tourism; government, public administration and safety, including a Reserve Officers' Training Corps program; education, training and human services; business, management, marketing and finance; engineering; manufacturing, transportation, distribution and logistics; and health care sciences.

Officials said they are trying to align career pathways to the regional business and industry needs and jobs available in the market.

More than 55 school districts nationwide already have moved to career academies, said Suzanne Johnson, U-46 deputy superintendent of instruction.

"Students will still have the opportunity to attend their home school provided the academy and pathway they selected are offered at their home school," Johnson said. "We will be continuing to review space availability and operational needs for programs."

Under the academy structure, students would be able to access fine arts programs and other electives, transportation would be provided to career programs, and students could change their academy choice once during high school, she added.

Currently, among the 11,346 students in U-46's five high schools this year, 1,322 are enrolled in subject-specific academies.

They are: Broadcast Education and Communication Networks (BEACON) Academy at South Elgin High; Gifted and Talented Academy at Elgin High; Science, Engineering and High Technology Academy at Bartlett High; Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Larkin High in Elgin; and World Languages and International Studies Academy at Streamwood High. Those programs are under review and would become magnet schools.

The Beacon Academy is getting an upgrade with new equipment and a revised curriculum focusing on digital media and including work-based learning experiences to be implemented during the 2019-20 school year. The Gifted and Talented Academy could offer an International Baccalaureate program next school year. Officials also are trying to distinguish Bartlett's STEM Academy -- built around Project Lead the Way courses, many of which are offered at other schools.

Some high school programs provide students an opportunity to earn industry credentials in automotive, precision manufacturing, welding, health care science and culinary arts fields. After an audit of current CTE programs, officials are recommending providing students opportunities to earn industry certifications and credentials through all pathways.

All pathway programs would provide students opportunities for work-based training, internships and job shadowing, officials said.

Officials also are proposing offering seventh-graders a career exploration class beginning with the 2019-20 school year and allowing the roughly 2,600 eighth-graders to choose an academy path after attending the district's fall curriculum and career expo on Sept. 12 at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

An informational session on proposed academies is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday in Room 130 at Bartlett High School, 701 W. Schick Road. It will focus on the planned Government, Public Administration & Safety Academy, including ROTC.

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