By Emily Williams
Hoover City Schools’ new career training school is set to open next month with almost twice as many students as originally expected.
The Riverchase Career Connection Center has enrolled approximately 750 students so far and has a waiting list, according to Ron Dodson, director of the new school.
“Our goal, which I was told by the state we would never reach, was 400 students,” he said.
The center, dubbed RC3, will serve 10th, 11th and 12th grade students from Hoover, Spain Park and Homewood high schools.
Located at the former Riverchase Middle School campus, RC3 will contain five different career academies, allowing students to train for jobs in culinary arts, cyberinnovation, fire and emergency services, health science and skill trades.
Demand for the classes has been so great that the system is having to finish six additional classrooms, Dodson said. Those classrooms had been included in the facility plans but were to be built at a later date.
Parking at the center also is being reevaluated, he said.
“Those are good problems to have,” he said. “It shows the demand for our programs. There is tremendous demand for this and a need that is there.”
More Students Skipping College
Hoover Superintendent Dr. Kathy Murphy in her 2018 state-of-the-school-system presentation said that in 2014-15, 5.4% of the system’s high school graduates had no plans to attend college. In 2016-17, that had risen to 13.2%.
Dodson said graduating with a college degree isn’t a direct path to prosperity.
In 2015, more than 40% of college graduates under the age of 27 held jobs that did not require a college degree, according to government statistics analyzed by the website Degree Query.
Rather than spending four years in college, potentially racking up student debt, RC3 students could be able to enter the workforce at the time of graduation. Students also could get a head start on obtaining industry-recognized credentials.
As they would in an actual workplace, students will clock-in each day and attend training classes. They will spend half-days at the center and the other half at their normal high schools.
In addition to career studies, the students will complete their English and mathematics credits during their RC3 shift. The morning shift also will include an additional elective.
Seven buses have been secured to transport students, one of which has been outfitted with Wi-Fi by the Hoover City Schools Foundation. Murphy said the hope is eventually to have Wi-Fi in each of the buses so students can continue their studies while commuting to and from the center.
As the school will provide real-world training, safety will be a major focus.
“This is going to be a simulated workspace environment,” Dodson said. “We are bringing these kids to a place of work in conditions of real places of work.”
The facility will have a nurse and all staff will have “stop the bleed training” in case a student is injured.
“We will have higher expectations of students in this environment,” Dodson said. “They will receive training that is the same training you would get on a job site that is approved by Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”
On Aug. 1, the school system will host a ribbon-cutting for the facility, followed by tours of the building.