For many high school graduates, college remains the logical next step, and the value of a degree can’t be overstated for those planning to enter fields that value a multi-faceted education. But for grads whose sights are set on more specialized occupations, four years of college can sometimes feel like a speed bump between Point A and Point B.
Modern-day educators understand that options are the best way to ensure no student is left behind. And with that aim firmly in mind, the Artesia Public Schools (APS) broke ground May 22 on the first of what will become three on-campus buildings dedicated exclusively to Career Technical Education (CTE).
“It’s so important to us that people see that the Artesia Public Schools value a career and trades path as much as we value all our other pathways,” APS Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Danny Parker said. “It’s not more important, it’s not less important — they’re all important, and we want to give our students the skills that they need to continue their education in whatever field they’re going into.”
CTE Building 1 will be located in the space currently occupied by Artesia High School’s former tennis courts. The 22,433-square-foot facility will house the school’s business/marketing, mass communications, culinary and life skills programs.
“We’re going to have another change with our home economics classes,” Parker said. “They became nutrition classes, and now it’s going to be culinary. We’ll also have our child development classes in there.”
The APS is also pleased to have the opportunity to expand its life skills offerings within the special education department.
“They’ll have simulated apartments in this building, so students will be able to learn how to keep a house,” said Parker. “They’ll also have a grocery store component, and then there’s a large classroom for them to work on academic skills as well. That’s just a really great program.”
While AHS already offers dual credit in many of its vocational subjects, such offerings will have the potential to increase as programs are expanded. Parker said the APS is in talks with several area colleges and programs as it continues to develop its curriculum. That development for some of the new programs that will be housed in the upcoming CTE Building 2 — including gasoline and diesel automotive, oil and gas/ energy, construction trades, and computer-aided design (CAD) and architecture drafting — is particularly exciting for the district.
“We’ve never had diesel as part of our program before, so we’re looking forward to adding that,” said Parker. “We’ve always done woodworking, and that will now be moving to construction trades. And then we’re also hoping to add an oil and gas laboratory or energy laboratory.”
Parker said the APS has had some preliminary conversations with oil and gas industry stakeholders but plans to have many more before that particular program is instituted, as the district wants to ensure it encompasses not only the basics of the field but specialized offshoots like automation and computer programming as well.
“It’s really a neat job that we have in front of us to develop those programs, and we’re working with some other schools throughout the area on that,” said Parker. “There’s a group called the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin, and we’re working with them as well to develop an energy pathway.”
The final CTE building will house the school’s fire science/EMT, nursing/sports medicine and art programs.
“We’re just very excited that the kids are going to get state-of-the-art places to learn these trades,” said Parker.
Construction on CTE Building 1 — which is being financed with mill levy funds — is expected to be complete in August 2024. Building 2 will be located at the site of the current AHS annex, and the district hopes to have funding and design work in place to allow that project to begin as soon as possible following the completion of the first phase.
“All of these programs except for business are coming from the annex, so it’s important for us to go in phases so that no program will be displaced,” Parker said.
Building 3 will be housed in the current auto shop and art facility adjacent the annex, which will be renovated rather than demolished. Ten students currently involved in AHS’s vocational programs were handed the ceremonial shovels during the groundbreaking, symbolizing the diverse paths the district is working to clear for all its students.
“We wanted the students to be involved because it’s their building,” Parker said. “We’re doing this for their benefit, and it’s just going to be a really good thing for Artesia. We want our students, if they’re so inclined, to follow that career pathway. If kids want to stay in Artesia, we want them to be able to do that.
“We’re just excited to see this revitalization of our vocational programs. We’ve had some excellent programs for a lot of years, and a lot of dedicated teachers have really put their passions into them and into the kids. Now we’re excited to see where the kids take it from here.”