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Hobbs schools exploring career tech school

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The Hobbs Municipal Schools is ramping up the exploration of a possible career technician school in Hobbs.

The idea is to gather as much information about the impact and cost such a school would have in the Hobbs community and then present it to voters for bond approval.

During his report to the Hobbs School Board last week, Superintendent TJ Parks said the district received visits from two consultants regarding the venture. The consultants came from Stantec, an international professional services company in the design and consulting industry.

The two consultants are architects within Stantec and held four meetings with district staff members, school vocational teachers, local business and school leaders who comprise a committee regarding the school and members of the Hobbs Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County. The meetings focused on what would be the purpose of Career Technical Education (CTE) within Hobbs schools.

The consultants’ message was to endorse the positives of a career tech school: increased graduation rates and overall student proficiency.” Parks added a statistic that he felt local business owners would be interested to learn more about.

“For every dollar that is invested in the community on career tech they (local businesses) get a return of investment of $6-9,” Parks said. “Certainly (the members in the meetings) their ears perked up when they heard that.”

The consultants demonstrated three types of career tech facilities — Distributed, Academies and Career Tech Centers. The Distributed facility involves multiple high schools in a community with vocational classes at each of the schools. An academy facility is where an entire school is focused on career field. Parks gave an example of an academy near Hobby Airport in Houston that is focused on aeronautics, from creating pilots to mechanics. The third option is a career tech center, which Parks believes would fit the Hobbs area best.

“A separate facility that would be accessible to all of the high school students who would have all of the career pathways available,” Parks said.

How many career pathways would be needed for such a school in Hobbs? Parks said the consultants felt four pathways would be suffice and it was up to the CTE committee to find the pathways from a given list of 16.

Those 16 include pathways from agriculture and hospitality and tourism to architecture and construction and manufacturing. Parks said the CTE committee and others involved have a “pretty good indication” of the four pathways.

A survey was conducted but he said he needs to consult other area business leaders and students first. Parks said one of the pathways the school district is looking at is automation.

“Oilfield technology is something we are going to be interested in,” Parks said. “Transportation is another. You can look at diesel mechanics, auto repair, things like that. Engineering could be another. We have to be careful because (New Mexico Junior College) offers a lot of services and we don’t want to duplicate what they have.”

Parks said one of the things the consultants talked about is the importance of building a facility with enough flexibility to change pathways.

“Because 10 years from now certain pathways may go away,” he said.

Once the pathways are chosen, the consultants can perform a feasibility study. The study would cover a plethora of factors including site options, career pathways, design concepts, digital renderings, project schedule and a construction budget. Parks said the school district should have a request for approval of an architectural firm ready by the March board meeting. The architectural firm will create a timeline for the school district.

Once that’s accomplished, district officials will begin talking to residents and parents at community meetings.

“We need the timeline to figure out if this is possible and then hold community meetings to determine if we would go out for a bond if this was something we were going to build,” Parks said. “Next would be to hire someone within the next six to 12 months who has experience in career tech. Not necessarily as a full-time staff member but as a consultant. I don’t know if we have anyone currently on staff who has the expertise that has built something or has created something from the ground up.”

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