The Wrangell School Board voted Monday to approve an agreement with the University of Alaska Southeast to bring a full-time UAS tech prep regional coordinator to the community.
Wrangell School District Superintendent Patrick Mayer compared it to having a UAS satellite campus in Wrangell. He said all that’s left is the formality of signing the agreement.
“It’s pretty much a done deal,” Mayer said. “We’re pretty excited about it. It’s going to be a great opportunity for Wrangell students and the community at large.”
Mayer says the Memorandum of Agreement between the university and the school district will not shift any costs to Wrangell.
“That was pretty key to us becoming involved in this relationship with UAS, was that the only expectation on the part of the district was to provide office space. That just really reflects a win for our district and our kids,” Mayer said.
The goal of the UAS Tech Prep Program is to help high school students start gaining the skills and college credit they need to continue their technical education after they graduate.
Wrangell High School already offers a few courses for college credit through this program, including construction techniques and woodworking. But having the coordinator physically in the school district is an opportunity to expand tech prep offerings.
Kim Szczatko is the tech prep regional coordinator who is moving her office from Juneau to Wrangell. She covers Southeast Alaska, and some of her programs reach all over the state. She said UAS is interested in developing Wrangell’s Tech Prep Program, but that is harder to do in a community that lacks a university presence.
Szczatko said she will start in Wrangell this spring by helping the high school teachers with the existing tech prep courses.
“One of the first things is to try to take some of the responsibility off the teachers as far as doing the registration process, talking with the kids and setting up the payments. So immediately, that’s going to be on me,” Szczatko said.
Szczatko said the next step is to work with school administrators to set up new classes for the fall.
“We’re looking at different construction-type courses, adding a welding course, and adding more computer science courses.”
Part of Szczatko’s job is to make sure all of those new courses measure up to the university’s curriculum standards. But she said she will help students and adults access information about any course of study throughout the University of Alaska system. Szczatko said she can help with applications, scholarships and logistics.
“I can show them what the plan is as far as what types of courses they have to take. Can they take them online? Are they able to stay in Wrangell and do their coursework? Or would they have to travel to another community to do it? I can help them with all of that,” Szczatko said. “It’s really kind of nice because you have university personnel right there on campus.”
Szczatko said her goal is to eventually bring more adult courses to the community so students have the option of finishing college while continuing to live and work in Wrangell.
She says her office will be open to anyone in the community and to anyone traveling through town.
The current agreement between UAS and the Wrangell School District is valid through June 2016.