Could vocational school be in Ashland’s future?

ASHLAND, Ky. – The Ashland school board voted unanimously last Monday night to begin studying more deeply the possibility of building a vocational school.

Superintendent Sean Howard said the time is now to expand opportunities for students in the Ashland system. A citizen’s group called “Ashland’s Generation Next” led the charge to begin considering it as a possibility since Ashland is the only school in the state without a vocational school.

The citizens group spent countless hours in research and emails to state officials including Sen. Robin Webb and Rep. Scott Sharp, both who were supportive. Howard has interacted with Rocky Adkins, a special advisor to Gov. Andy Beshear, for additional support.

The motive of the citizen’s group is to give all students a better career path and to have a workforce developing for future growth in Ashland. And, hopefully, to work on ending the “Brain Drain,” where the best and brightest leave Ashland for other areas because of few opportunities here.

Three “Ashland’s Generation Next” members shared the good news to the Ashland City Commission on Thursday. Mayor Matt Perkins, City Manager Mike Graese and the four commissioners were all in agreement that the potential of a vocational school would be a benefit to the city and promised to work with Howard in helping with the project.

At the school board meeting on Monday, Howard asked to assemble the 20-member Local Planning Commission, which decides projects that the school system most needs, and hopefully move vocational school to the top of the priority list. A group of school officials and one of the citizen’s group toured Johnson Central and Lawrence County facilities on Wednesday to learn more about what was ahead.

Students in every other school system throughout the area have access to vocational schools on their own campus or in a nearby one in the case of Fairview Independent and Raceland Independent, which can attend Russell’s vocational school. However, an Ashland student would have to transfer to attend Boyd County, Greenup County or Russell’s vocational schools.

Beshear was traveling the state last week to present checks to Kentucky school districts to renovate local Vocational Education Centers. The grant funding was approved through the Kentucky School Facilities Construction Commission Board and approved in the last legislative session.

Beshear on Friday presented $10 million to the Johnson County Board of Education to fund the construction of a new Local Area Vocational Education Center, which will be connected to the new Johnson Central High School, a news release said.

An existing career and technical education center in Johnson County currently offers 27 training majors and has almost 1,000 students enrolled, Beshear’s office said.

Beshear also handed out more than $4.3 million to the Magoffin Board of Education to finance a new vocational education center.

Officials say the current vocational education building, built in the 1970s, has inadequate electrical wiring, outdated security systems and various space issues.

The construction board voted to offer grants to nine schools districts which operate Local Area Vocational Education Centers (LAVEC) programs. Funding can be used to cover the cost of renovations which would include updating, expanding, repairing and replacing or rebuilding a structure.

Six districts received $10 million grants including Johnson County. Lawrence County received $9,280,350 and Magoffin County will get $4,369,318 in grant funding.

Here is the breakdown for the school districts that have been approved for LAVEC grants by the commission:

  • Magoffin County will receive $4,369,318

  • Christian County will receive $10 million

  • Bardstown Independent will receive $10 million

  • Johnson County will receive $10 million

  • Lawrence County will receive $9,280,350

  • Fayette County will receive $10 million

  • Knox County will receive $10 million

  • Trigg County will receive $10 million

  • Ballard County will receive $68,896

Twenty-two other school districts that applied did not receive funding but have hopes of being approved during the General Assembly session that starts in January.

Until recently Ashland didn’t qualify for the grant because it wasn’t designated a LAVEC program. Because of what the school was doing already with nursing, engineering and agriculture on the Blazer campus, they were eligible to be a LAVEC and Howard applied with the state to gain that status.

More work needs to be done, including writing a grant, before the General Assembly session starts in January. The governor will be reviewing qualified projects for potential funds in the budget that will be submitted for January.

Gov. Andy Beshear presented the Johnson County School Board a check for $10 million to further develop vocational education.

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