The first autonomous vocational school in Hernando County; pending the governor’s signature


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The first autonomous vocational school in Hernando County promises to be a dream come true for many students and families in this region, as well as for the educated and dedicated professional of Hernando who made the project her passion.

The Florida Senate and House of Representatives passed a Hernando Career Certificate and Dual Enrollment Expansion Bill (LFIR 2383 / HB 3921) on Monday to fund a vocational school for the Hernando County School District ; the allocation of $ 6 million for the planning of a free-standing school building at Central High School, dedicated solely to the study of technical and vocational education.

The school is the brainchild of Sophia Watson, the Hernando County Technical and Adult Education Supervisor, who has been developing the concept since 2013.

“This is the start of a new school. I am so excited to see the long awaited expansion of our professional training program, ”said Watson. “I am thrilled for our students, for our families and our schools, for our local workforce. “

Watson is proud of the Adult Education and Vocational Training Program at Hernando’s Suncoast Technical Education Center (SunTech), a part-time course taught at various high schools in the region. Still, she saw room for something more.

“We needed a good-sized freestanding building to facilitate daytime classes, Monday through Friday, and a full-time class schedule,” Watson said.

Senator Wilton Simpson sponsored a bill last year to fund the school project.

“Hernando’s Suncoast Technical Education Center, Florida’s newest technical school, was established and achieved accreditation without a stand-alone building,” says the Hernando Schools Vocational Program 2019 local funding initiative request (http://www.flsenate.gov/PublishedContent/Session/FiscalYear/FY2019-20/LocalFundingInitiativeRequests/FY2019-20_S1654.PDF).

“Last year the school district had 1,224 students who achieved industry certification, once again demonstrating strong support for vocational and technical training within our community. The Hernando School District has a proven track record of success in vocational and technical education and we believe there is broad support and advocates in the community for a vocational school that will serve both high school and high school students. mature students interested in learning a trade.

While last year’s bill was vetoed, this year’s measure was passed to pass pending Gov. Ron DeSantis’s signature; establishing what Watson calls the “imprint” of a dream come true.

“And it’s not just my dream,” Watson said. “Our legislators, the school board, the whole community supported us.

Timothy L. Beard, Ph.D., president of Pasco-Hernando State College, agrees.

“It is important to support education in this community and to provide students with as many options as possible,” he said. “It’s a plus for education. The more technical education programs we have, the more career paths we can offer Hernando students. “

Beard notes that 800 dual-enrolled students currently attend PHSC. Dual-enrolled students representing universities in the area are also students of SunTech, the program slated for expansion through this bill.

Patricia Crowley, CEO of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, sees the bill as a positive step forward for the Hernando community.

“The Grand Hernando County Chamber Board of Directors has supported the Hernando County School District’s request for state funding for a vocational school,” she said. “The education and training of our workforce is essential for the future of economic development in Hernando County. We look forward to Governor DeSantis approving the bill. “

SunTech studies everything from heating, ventilation and air conditioning, cosmetology, construction and legal technology to auto mechanics, cybersecurity to massage therapy, early childhood learning to welding to forces. order and science of fires.

In the new school, students will study these subjects full time, hopefully tackling new subjects such as aeronautics as well.

“Our textbooks and curricula will be assembled with the help of industry leaders in our county,” Watson said. “We will be able to purchase equipment and host guest speakers from our target industries. “

The next step in the process, Watson said, will be the development of planning committees and building plans for the school, as well as fine determination of subjects and curriculum. And although no timeline has been set for the completion of the school project, the groundwork has been laid for the fulfillment of a dream.

“By keeping technical education students in the community,” she said, “we are putting the students and the community on the right track. “

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