Making careers move

Students will be able to cook in a commercial kitchen and treat "patients" in hospital rooms, after a renovation budgeted at $6.2 million this summer at the GCISD Technical Education and Career Center at Grapevine High School.

The work involves nearly gutting the 65,000-square-foot wing that makes up the center, said Rick Bracy, director of career and technical education for the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District. The money comes from the district's 2011 bond program.

In the 1970s, the wing was the Grapevine County Career School and included model home kitchens and other sections that gradually fell out of the curriculum because they were no longer relevant. The spaces were converted into other kinds of classrooms, but the center has not had a major redesign and upgrade until now.

Bracy said a key difference from the old vocation-technical model from years back is that the center aims to train students from both Grapevine High and Colleyville Heritage High School for jobs they can get to work their way through college, as well as preparing them for certifications to start full-time work.

Career paths

An 18-station commercial kitchen will allow the center, a "school within a school," to expand its culinary program with the Gaylord Texan Hotel Resort and Convention Center on Lake Grapevine.

Bracy said in the past, 16 students went to the hotel to work with chefs every semester. The new kitchen will allow the program to have 50-60 students each semester from both high schools.

Chefs will come to the school, and in their second year students will work at the hotel as interns in a for-credit practicum.

For medical science and technology, a three-room hospital area will provide space and equipment for both classroom and lab learning.

Some of those courses will prepare students to become pharmacy techs or phlebotomists, jobs they could work part-time during college if they want to continue their educations.

The automotive section will be combined with collision repair, so students can learn in what looks like a commercial shop. Bracy said that with the renovation the district will be able to pursue accreditation that allows students to be certified as automotive specialists and get jobs as service technicians.

Veterinary technology, horticulture, child care development, law, marketing in fashion, sports and entertainment and more also are offered at the center.

Eventually an IT program will include internships with district techs.

Bracy said the district also wants to work with local police departments to start a law enforcement program.

Since he came to the district in 2008, Bracy said the student interest in career center classes has grown from 1,200 to 3,200 students from both high schools.

LEAD 2021

The expansion is part of the district's overall comprehensive plan, LEAD 2021.

"This is one more part of the puzzle that allows kids to have choice, allows them to look beyond high school at career options," said Rick Westfall, the district's chief learning officer.

Middle school students come to the center for career fairs and other activities. "They begin to explore career possibilities as early as sixth grade," Bracy said.

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