Region 10 Technical High School, 68 Church St. is exploring the idea of moving to Brunswick Landing to offer students a full technical education (Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record)

BRUNSWICK — Region 10 Technical High School in Brunswick wants to move to Brunswick Landing and become an independent, four-year technical high school within the next three years, according to director Nancy Weed.

The school on Church Road serves 240 students from Brunswick, Regional School Unit 5 and Maine School Administrative District 75, as well as a few other, smaller towns, focusing on technical and vocational programs. The school offers auto collision-repair, building trades, early childhood education, EMT basic, CNA training, welding and general trades among others. 

The courses are primarily one and two-year programs although the new pre-engineering program will be four years, Weed said. The sessions are split into morning and afternoon, with students being bussed in from their respective school districts.

“These kids need more than just a part-time program,” she said.

Related: R10 to host ‘hands-on’ open house

Weed and some of her colleagues presented their plan to re-brand as a four-year, full-day high school to the Brunswick Board of Education at a special board meeting Wednesday evening, bearing gifts of cookies from the school’s culinary arts program for the board members. They gave the same presentation to the state Department of Education in September.

The plot at Brunswick Landing has already been identified, she said, and would be across from Southern Maine Community College and near several “future-oriented businesses and industries.”

A comprehensive technical school in the area would provide direct relief to the region’s struggling workforce, and keep young people in a rapidly aging state, where the average age for skilled laborers is around 50, Weed said.

With the current structure, students leave their “home school” for part of the day. The fact that those students are identified as “other” in their district’s listings, she said, arguing that furthers a stigma against technical education.

“There’s an age-old idea that if you’re a (vocational school) kid you’re not going anywhere,” she said. However, by gaining certifications and valuable experience while still in high school, Weed feels this path is ideal for students who want to quickly jump into the workforce or get some experience ahead of college. The stigma is part of the reason that programs across the country have worked hard to re-brand as Career and Technical Education rather than vocational education.

Students only being in the building for half the day also reduces instructional time. Weed’s goal is to add more core academic subjects to the school so that all the needs are being met within the same building and students are able to focus on their CTE courses as well.

There are also a number of “scheduled interruptions” throughout the year that disrupt Region 10’s class time, she said, such as election days or late starts; in fact, 33 percent of student days are “interrupted” in some way.

Moreover, with different sending schools having different schedules — including late starts some days, early release, among others — some teachers must wait up to an hour to start the instruction. Because of this, morning students get 54 fewer hours of instruction or practice than the afternoon students, Weed said, which can make a difference when obtaining a certification.

Some schools also offer different credits for various programs within Region 10. For example, Students at Brunswick and Mount Ararat High Schools can earn one “fine art” credit for taking Graphic Design and Illustration, but only half a credit at Freeport High School.

“We want consistency for students no matter where they live,” she said.

Other schools in the area are also revamping their CTE program, like Bath, which recently started early phases of construction on a $74 million Morse High School/Bath Regional Career & Technical Center Building project.

“It would be exciting to see Brunswick and the Midcoast be the leader in the state for this,” she said.

Despite the excitement, there are still looming questions that they do not have the answers to yet. They would explore becoming a magnet school to help get funding, but how much the rebrand and rebuild would cost, they do not know.

They also have to consider what potential repercussions there might be for some of the regional schools if large numbers of students opt to attend the new technical school, although Weed said she hoped some teachers might come with them.

While she would like to have everything started within the next three years, she does not know the timeline for the project yet and said there’s a great deal of work ahead.

Ultimately though, as she wrote in her presentation, to not explore the option would be “a disservice to our students, our community and our state.”

[email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: