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Casey, Garrard schools finalists for $11 million in Work Ready grants

School districts in Casey and Garrard counties are in the running to receive funding through Kentucky’s new workforce development grant fund.

Casey and Garrard’s projects both made it through the first round to become two of 39 finalists for the funding. On Wednesday and Thursday, the remaining finalists will go through an interview process to determine if they might be one of those selected.

The state has $100 million available to fund workforce development projects. Up to $65 million will be given away this year by the Work Ready Skills Advisory Committee. The other $35 million is being set aside for a second round of grants in 2017. Casey and Garrard counties’ proposals total $11 million. All applicants must have 10 percent of their proposals available in local matching funds in order to be eligible for the grant money.

The Casey County School District has put forth an $8.5 million “multifaceted plan,” which includes a renovation project and expanded class offerings.

“We are hopeful and excited,” said Carmela Clark, principal of the district’s Area Technology Center.

The proposal would expand programs at the Casey County Area Technology Center.

Healthcare is “probably one of the top needed careers,” Clark said. Students at the center can currently obtain certifications as state registered nurse aids, in phlebotomy certification, and in pharmacy tech.

Students in the current automotive technology courses can obtain their automotive service excellence certification in eight areas; business students can take the Microsoft Office Specialist test; and welding students can become certified in two ways.

The proposal includes a plan to expand the center’s current offerings, so there will be two welding teachers, two health science teachers, one diesel technology teacher, one automotive technology teacher, one business teacher and one electrical teacher.

“We were trying to come up with options suitable for our area — there are lots of welders needed to work for Tarter, with their recent growth,” Clark said.

Tarter’s growth means there’s a demand for workers involved with transportation, which led to the decision to add the diesel technology program to the center’s already existing automotive technology program.

Clark said they are also looking into the possibility of partnering with Cumberland CDL to offer a dual credit-type class so students could earn commercial driver’s licenses, enabling them to drive tractor-trailers.

The expansion plans also include updated equipment for the center’s various programs.

The center has seen no major renovations since being built in 1971, with the exception of a roof replacement in 1994.

“We’re overdue,” Clark said.

The proposal includes a new lab for the health sciences program. There would also be a lab for dual credit anatomy classes. Eventually, Clark said, those might be offered in the evenings as well, as an option for adult education through the district’s partnership with Somerset Community College.

Casey’s proposal also includes major interior renovations and work to relocate and combine some classes.

The Garrard County School District has put forth a $2.5 million proposal that would expand career offerings for high school students and community members.

“We’re proud to have been named a finalist,” Garrard County Superintendent Corey Keith said.

The proposed plan would benefit Garrard’s GROW Academy. GROW stands for Growing Readiness and Opportunities for Work.

“There are a lot of facets,” said Cindy Rogers, instructional support for the district and one of the key people involved in the writing of the grant. While Rogers said there’s been many involved in the project, Keith said she had been instrumental in getting it finished.

“She’s done a lot of work on it,” he said.

The first part of the plan includes expansion of current offerings. Students at the Garrard County High School can take medical-related classes and obtain a medical nursing assistant certification, or they can take culinary classes and obtain a ServSafe Certificate.

The problem, Keith said, is that there are more students wanting to take these classes than they have space. Additionally, students from neighboring schools, such as the Lincoln County High School, will travel to Garrard County to take courses at the Garrard County Area Technology Center, because they also don’t have enough classes to keep up with demand.

Another aspect of the proposal will be to implement new programs: a childcare pathway and EMT and advanced EMT classes.

“The data shows those areas are going to be higher demand sectors. We feel good about expanding the opportunities for students,” Keith said.

Eventually, Rogers said, they hope to expand into other career pathways, especially seeking out those that will be in high demand in the area.

There’s also a community and adult education component, Keith said, as they plan to offer courses to community members and adults seeking to further their education.

Most of this will take place at the Garrard Education Center, formerly the Garrard County Middle School, located near the Area Technology Center. It’s also near the Christian Care Center, Rogers pointed out, which will be beneficial for the students in medical studies.

They plan to use some of the $2.5 million to renovate the kitchen in the center so it can be used as a lab for students in the culinary program.

The center currently houses district programs and would only take a portion of the building for the classes, Keith said.

Currently, the district is working with the Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Eastern Kentucky University and Berea College. Keith said efforts are being made to establish a partnership with the Culinary program at Sullivan University.

There are more than 30 other partners involved with the proposal, including Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center and the Garrard County Industrial Development Authority, along with area businesses and individuals, Keith said.

Lincoln County Schools had also partnered with the district in the writing of the grant and will contribute supplies to help make the expansion happen, he said.

“It will be an opportunity for students who normally get turned away,” Rogers said.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.