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Coquille School District
Bethany Baker, The World

COQUILLE – The Coquille School District is putting joy back in the classroom.

By May 1, the district will be well under way to bringing a new Career Technical Education Center to reality. Not only is the district’s CTE program about to be expanded by 2019, but the new building will also serve as a campus extension for Winter Lakes, its popular alternative school.

“Honestly I would like to start these CTE programs in junior high, but certainly high school,” said district Superintendent Tim Sweeney. “When we did No Child Left Behind we had such a focus on reading and math that we took joy out of school for students who had to spend all their time on those areas. The realization came later that schools need to serve the whole child, which is what some of us have been saying all along.”

Sweeney explained that the importance of CTE programs, which teach skills such as culinary arts and manufacturing, help connect students to learning.

“The more things that are a draw for students to come to school, the more variety they have, the more likely they are to stay and graduate,” Sweeney said. “Getting that hook early and loving school early is critical.”

Not only that but CTE programs teach students trade skills that can land them high paying careers right out of high school. Often these CTE courses earn college credits for students while they are still in high school as well.

“Sending them on a pathway to a career or college with dual credit classes, so it’s not so daunting when they graduate or overwhelmed with student debt, will be a big deal as well,” Sweeney said.

As for Winter Lakes School, the district has seen so much growth over the past two years that something had to be done to create more room.

“We believe the elementary school students at Winter Lakes will stay at the current location and we will move the secondary students to the new location with the CTE Center,” Sweeney said.

That way there is room for even more growth.

So far this school year, there are 317 students at the alternative school. Winter Lakes began the year with just 225 students.

Not only that, but Winter Lakes students – just in the fall term – earned 270 credit hours at SWOCC which is something Sweeney hopes to continue at the new location as well as at the district high school.

Though the district can’t release the potential location for the new building yet, it will cost an estimated $1.9 million to build the 13,000 square foot structure. To pay for it the district has $1.2 million on hand in the capital improvement fund, as well as some from the general fund saved up for next year, though grant applications are being sent out to close the financial gap.

“We hope to have everything secured and moving forward no later than May 1 and to start construction over the summer,” Sweeney said. “In my dreams I’m hoping we move in by January of 2019 but reality is more like September of 2019, but there’s a shot we could be in a year from now.”

The new CTE programs that will move into the new building haven’t been chosen yet. The vice principal at Winter Lakes is putting out a student survey for kids to voice what they would like to see.

Sweeney has his own hopes of what the students will pick.

“I hope they vote for construction, a dual credit program around a beauty school, and a culinary arts program especially if we can create a pathway to the SWOCC culinary arts program,” he said. “I know that’s something I’m interested in but don’t know if the kids are.

“But we’re excited that we’re growing and are ready to take the next step.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.