Commuting to learn

Students and teachers travel to new to new district facility on Haskell Avenue for career-oriented, college classes


Cooper Avery

Senior Alex Aguilar puts on her scrubs for her CNA certification class at the College and Career Center last week. “We are working on how to prepare ourselves to work with our patients at the nursing home,” she said.

By Kate Rettig

On a Monday morning, most juniors and seniors pull in the school parking lot and head toward the building.

They anticipate the next eight hours of lectures, notes and tests.

However, when senior Nicole Berkley arrives at school, she gets on a bus to attend her Forensic Science class at the College and Career Center, 2910 Haskell.

CCC is a new option for upperclassmen in district to take career and college classes filled with hands-on instruction.

In Berkley’s Forensic Science class, students learn the concepts and skills of investigating crime scenes.

“We’re building a meat garden, which has different meats,” she said. “We’re seeing what type of bugs are attracted to them and see how long a body has been dead. I think that’s pretty interesting.”

Students can also take classes that range from robotics to CNA training.

“Our classes and curriculum will be changing all the time because it’s about what students are interested in as well as what careers are out there that they’re interested in,” career and technical education director Patrick Kelly said. “For example, when we started with the biotechnology course and when we listened to our student group, they said, ‘We don’t know what biotechnology is,’ and we said, ‘Well, how about forensic science?’ And they said, ‘Oh, we know what that is.’ So we did forensic science instead of biotechnology.”

By taking these classes, students will not only gain experience and knowledge. They also receive college credit for some classes. For example, the CNA course is accredited through Neosho County Community College and the Computer and Network Technology class is offered through Johnson County Community College.

Senior Elanna Goodwin is also taking Forensic Science, but she’s taking it for the college credit.

“I really wanted to take this class because I knew it was a college credit so it’ll bring me a step forward,” Goodwin said. “I won’t be behind.”

Students are not the only ones commuting to the CCC. Some LHS teachers are also traveling across town for school.

“It’s different…different is a good word,” engineering teacher Charlie Lauts said. “I feel weird not coming here in the morning. It’s just always where I’ve been in the morning…It’s just making a different turn and going to a different building. It’s just changing gears.”

Lauts, who teaches the Design/Build class at CCC, spends the first half of the day at the East Lawrence location and commutes back to LHS before fourth hour.

Lauts is one of three of the teachers at LHS who were asked to teach a class at CCC.

“We want teachers who are interested in hands-on, project-based learning — teachers who are interested in authentic work experiences so making sure what you’re doing is real and not just conceived up and just for fun,” Kelly said.

Taking a class at CCC takes up three hours of students’ class schedules. Each class is two-hours long with an hour allotted for transportation.

To keep up with his core classes while still leaving space for electives at school, junior Noah Mercer took core classes online during the summer. He spends his first three hours at the Design/Build class at the CCC and comes back for fourth through seventh hours.

“It’s really nice,” Mercer said. “The state-of-the-art equipment and the teachers are wonderful and hand picked to go out there, and I advocate if anyone wants to go out there and have the time to, that they do because it’s really worth it.”

Both students and teachers said they benefit from the two-hour class length.

“Every class is two hours long, so it doesn’t matter if it’s my Design/Build class or the CNA class or Forensic Science,” Lauts said. “You meet for two hours and you get a lot more work time because you don’t have to clean up so fast and start again. You get a little more time to dive in.”

Junior Vanessa Hernandez, who was interested in taking the CNA course at CCC, worried it would take too much time away from her class schedule.

“First of all, it was a hassle getting over there,” she said. “At first, I wanted to take my car, but it was going out of my way. A lot of the classes I wanted to take this year are full-year classes, and so it was disrupting my schedule, and I didn’t like that. I felt overpowered by it all and especially that it’s my junior year and I wanted to do more stuff in school.”

Hernandez is currently exploring her option of getting her CNA certification outside of school so she will be able to work as a CNA during high school.

Overall, the College and Career Center is off to a good start, Kelly said. The grand opening for the public is on Sept. 26 and a project night displaying student’s projects will be on Sept. 29.

“I would really recommend taking a class.,” Goodwin said. “You’re not doing paper work all the time, and it’s a lot more fun.”