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Following the recent defeat of a second high school, Mayor Botelho appointed a group of citizens to focus on a solution that could be placed before voters in time to take advantage of state reimbursement funds. Of the options being considered, one important solution has not been reported on. In my opinion, we have a great opportunity to create a vocational education facility for Juneau's high school students.
A vocational education center could provide training in business technology, construction and related trades, culinary arts, graphic design and health care. Federal funds combined with state and local support could be secured to help with construction and operation costs. In Juneau, an alarming dropout rate of 35 percent among middle school graduates is a call for immediate action. Duplication of programming at a competing facility may not be the right approach. Many of Juneau's graduates are not headed for college, and many are unprepared for jobs beyond entry level in the service sector. With today's high cost of living, we should focus on ideas that will better prepare Juneau's youth to excel, to graduate with marketable skills that will benefit individuals and young families, and the community at large.
Many school districts across the United States have already recognized their dropout rate as being a priority of focus and have gone this route. In Palmer, there is such a program that provides tutoring for students to earn their GED, and training in a trade of choice. Regardless of how you voted in the last election, the problem of how to solve Juneau's future high school space needs remains. Now is the time to put together a plan for vocational education. To take advantage of 60 percent state reimbursement for school construction or remodeling, time is critically important. Let your voice be heard. Contact Assembly and School Board members if you would like vocational education expanded in Juneau. This could be a win/win for all.