The Huntsville School District appears to be poised to get the biggest bang for its buck when it constructs its Career and Technical Education facilities.

It was announced at the district’s monthly school board meeting last Thursday that Huntsville has determined the courses to be taught in its four-pod facility in the fall of 2020: a diesel mechanic course; a welding course; a course combining HVAC, plumbing and electrical work; and an emergency and medical services course combining training in CNA, EMS and fire training. Also taught will be a computer science program.

The push for computer education has been a chief mission of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, admittedly one of the few major pushes of his administration that I can gladly endorse. Other schools across the state have also widely adopted CTE programs similar to what Huntsville will offer.

For a state that ranks 42nd in education (according to a U.S. News report earlier this year), it’s encouraging to see Huntsville take the charge in providing students the best opportunities they can. While the expectation when we submitted our ballots in last month’s election was to see four courses determined by the school at some point, it looks like they found a way to offer at least double that.

We know the trends of jobs in the country. Machines are becoming more commonplace than human workers in retail jobs (see those convenient self-checkout lanes at Walmart and Target, or Walmart’s new robot janitors that it’s trying out in some of its stores), and a lot of jobs requiring college degrees are paying less and less while student loan debt is growing more and more. There’s a growing demand for skilled labor, particularly in northwest Arkansas, to do those jobs such as plumbing and welding. And if Huntsville ever grows to its potential, we’re going to have to have more skilled firefighters and medics (and paid ones, too).

The CTE program was the Huntsville School District’s biggest selling point in marketing its 3.9 millage increase to voters last month, which will also bring air conditioning to the Charles H. Berry and St. Paul gymnasiums (see related story on 1B) and a new activity center in Huntsville. Even with the increase, the district’s rate of 36 mills is still among the lowest in the state, and there’s going to be a hefty check for all the things it hopes to accomplish in the next few years. The air conditioning will be the first to come to fruition, followed by the CTE facility next year, and then the activity center could be open by 2021. We don’t yet have the plans for the activity center, but so far it looks like the district is stretching every penny, and making the investment worth it for our students and our community.

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