The face of education is changing. To better serve the youth and the entire River Valley community, we need to address those changes. Historically this district has focused on preparing students for college. In reality, college is the choice for some, but not for all students. Looking to the future, many jobs that go unfilled, even in our own communities, do not and will not require a college degree, but focus on vocational and technical skills. Nor does the River Valley area have the jobs to support or attract that number of college degrees. This is where the River Valley School District can be an innovator, can stand out, and can be the ‘school of choice’ for the future. School districts around the country are developing relationships with community colleges, technical schools, colleges and universities to prepare students to be contributing members of society upon high school graduation.
The River Valley school district is at a turning point. We need to redefine the vision for the future of the district within the confines of the existing budget and resources. Current school board actions focus on shifting students at the elementary level, necessitating building closures and underutilizing resources. I suggest that we not be so hasty. River Valley has the resources to create a vocational/technical education center – and to make this a ‘district of choice’ for students from the surrounding area. This can counter the effects of declining enrollment and attract home school and virtual school students who wish to pursue vocational skills. It can help meet the needs of students who are left behind academically so they can be positive, productive members of the community. I suggest this framework to open a dialogue for creating of a vocational/technical education center as part of the River Valley School District:
- Shift technical education programs/classes from the high school facility to the middle school facility as part of the larger plan
- Hold academic and college track classes in the high school building.
- Dedicate one wing in the high school to middle school classes.
- Develop partnerships with businesses, technical schools, and colleges where students can earn credits toward a degree and/or become certified in a skill/occupation.
- Schools are a vital component of small communities. Not only do they serve educational needs, they are often the social and recreational hub of those communities. Develop a creative class structure to keep the outlying elementary school buildings open, keeping in mind the travel times for the youngest students in the district
- Become a resource center for home school and virtual school students
This is just the start of a list of programs that are vital to the River Valley area and surrounding communities that will benefit from this plan.
- Aeronautics – airplane repair, maintenance (we have an airport nearby)
- Auto mechanics, diesel mechanics, auto body repair
- Small engine repair
- Partner with UW-Stevens Point natural resources program and utilize the school forest
- Healthcare: CNA, EMT, public safety
- Agriculture ‘short courses’ (horticulture, organic, Farm to Table, etc.)
- Construction skills
- Heavy equipment operation and safety
“Reskilling America-Learning to Labor in the Twenty-First Century” (Newman and Winston)
“The Industries of the Future” (Alec Ross)