The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
GCC may share auto center
BY LINDLEY ESTES
Nearly 560 Stafford County high school students are taking college-level classes through Germanna Community College, and that number may grow when automotive courses are phased out at Stafford High.
Germanna offers dual enrollment courses for Fredericksburg-area high schoolers in most disciplines. And the new Automotive Technology Center near the Stafford Regional Airport could open up new options for students.
Stafford High will lose its auto shop classes in 2015 when the new three-story building opens, and the existing 37-year-old school building is demolished. About 110 students now take automotive classes there. The loss of the auto courses has caused concern among some students, parents, teachers and alumni.
Stafford Schools Superintendent Randy Bridges said dropping the auto shop program at Stafford High is unavoidable.
“What I’d like to see for the new rebuild is for it to have everything the old school has, ideally,” he said. But that wasn’t possible because of the design of the building.
“It could have been any program. It just happens to be the automotive one,” Bridges said.
The cost of using Germanna auto tech center is still being discussed, but Bridges said that he hopes that it will be free to Stafford High School students.
They are considering a plan in which Germanna would provide the facility and Stafford would provide a teacher and transportation for students, said Bridges.
He said that career and technical education is not just a Stafford High issue, though.
“It’s extremely important to prepare our kids for all aspects of what they could encounter after high school,” he said.
A county-wide career and technical center is a goal but there are no plans or design for one at this point, he said.
Valerie Cottongim, spokeswoman for Stafford County public schools, said the district has a good working relationship with Germanna.
“This proposal would allow our automotive students to get a head start on completing the community college requirements of an automotive program,” she said.
In general, high school students taking dual enrollment courses through Germanna pay $34 per credit hour and receive college credit.
She said that taking dual enrollment courses is beneficial to students who remain in Virginia for college. College credits for programs such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes are accepted by universities both inside and outside of Virginia.
Mike Zitz, spokesman for Germanna Community College, said, talks with Stafford school officials are “still preliminary at this stage.”
Zitz said Germanna is happy to look for ways to partner with the county.
Stafford’s Economic Development Authority awarded Germanna with $75,000 toward the Automotive Technology Center.
The EDA has given $300,000 for the Germanna Stafford Center, which opened in 2009, and a matching grant of up to $1 million toward the establishment of a full campus.
The Stafford Center at Aquia Park on the west side of U.S. 1 was designed to accommodate 1,000 students, but enrollment there quickly swelled to 1,200.
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976