AUBURN — When a new Edward Little High School is eventually built, it should teach science, math and reading through technical and career programs, according to Assistant Principal Jim Horn.

The model for that could be Worcester Technical High School in Massachusetts, a national Blue Ribbon School that works with a high number of professionals to offer career programs. Horn and a team of other educators and school officials visited the school Nov. 6.

When the city builds a new high school, Auburn could “jump on some of the most fantastic opportunities the state has ever seen, a brand-new high school to be built in Auburn,” Horn said. “We design it in concept before we build the school. We put programs in place. We have it be a model.”

If the high school is built correctly, “businesses will come to this community,” he predicted Wednesday night at an Auburn School Committee meeting.

The school would be different from the Lewiston Regional Technical Center, which serves Edward Little and other area schools, Horn said. It would integrate math, reading, science and social studies with career programs. “It would all be blended together,” Horn said. 

City Councilor Mary LaFontaine, director of the CareerCenter in Lewiston, agreed and joined others in applauding the idea.

“We have businesses that would support this kind of school, and need this kind of school, for training our workforce,” she said. Auburn should not wait for a new school to be built, but should start developing programs with employers now, LaFontaine said.

The Worcester technical school serves 1,400 students in grades nine to 12. It was built in 2006 for $90 million. The price included $30 million raised by the community and philanthropists. The high school has four academies: construction, allied health and human services, design and engineering and information technology and business.

Within those academies, 23 trades are taught. Local professionals work with students, including veterinarians. High school students even assist in animal surgeries done at the school’s veterinary clinic.

Students also repair vehicles, take care of IT needs for administrators, offer day care services for the community and prepare food at the Skyline Bistro restaurant.

Since the school opened eight years ago, test scores jumped from 26 percent proficiency to 84 percent in math and 92 percent in reading. Students must apply for admittance.

Auburn officials who toured the school said their impression was that Worcester Tech students were motivated, engaged, committed and mature. Students graduated with a certificate in a field giving them a specific skill, and graduates are accepted into top colleges.

Horn spoke to one student in Worcester’s culinary program who told him she was planning to be a lawyer. He asked what working as a waitress had to do with becoming a lawyer.

“She said, ‘I’m learning people skills,'” Horn said. The student picked Worcester Technical because it was the best school in the area, she told him. The school isn’t about vocation; it’s helping students apply what they learn, not unlike Edward Little science teacher Kim Finnerty who teaches chemistry through agriculture, Horn said.

Last May, Maine Education Commissioner Jim Rier said the state was proceeding with a list of construction projects. Historically, the first 20 projects on the list have been funded.

Now, the state has approved funding for the first 12 projects, which is encouraging and means Edward Little in theory has moved up. Of the 20 projects, Edward Little is No. 16. 

“Being No. 16 doesn’t guarantee anything, but it isn’t hopeless,” Rier said.

AUGUSTA — All Maine high school students have the opportunity to attend one of the state’s 27 career and technical education centers, according to Maine Department of Education spokeswoman Samantha Warren.

“However, in some areas of the state, including Lewiston-Auburn, the demand is greater than the number of slots available,” she said.

There’s not enough room for all students who want technical education.

Maine has increased support for career and technical education, Warren said, because it’s good for students “and critical to developing the skilled workers employers are looking for to grow their businesses and move Maine’s economy forward.”

That help is requiring common school calendars between the career and technical education centers and the high schools each center serves.

And a “Bridge Year” program allows students to earn college credits and develop technical skills in high school. Earlier this year, the state awarded $500,000 for Bridge Year programs around the state.


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