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Low participation, high cost cited in Vo-Tech decision

Lincoln County School District Superintendent Terry Brister saidWednesday a decision to stop offering advanced vocational-technicalinstruction was difficult, but the program could not be financiallyjustified.

“I believe in vocational instruction, but it was noteconomically feasible,” Brister said. “Participation is dwindling,and that’s how I had to look at it – financially. It was costing usthe same amount whether it was one or 50 students a year.”

The county district had been paying the city district more than$164,000 per year to allow its students to participate in thecity’s advanced vocational program. That amount does not includebusing fees or the bus driver’s salary.

“We only had 18 students participating in those classes lastyear and, for the money, it was just not economically viable,”Brister said.

The superintendent blamed dwindling participation on thedifficulty of scheduling and attending the classes.

Students only have a set number of periods of instruction eachday and must not only plan a period for the class, but also one fortravel to and from the city facilities. In addition, Brister said,if they participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports,band or clubs, their options are further limited.

“If they’ve got to be there for fifth period, we’ve got to givethem a period to travel and they have to be able to return in timefor their other activities. When do they have the time? It wascutting down on the number of students who could participate,” hesaid.

Students had to make choices, Brister said, and vocationalclasses were not the popular choice.

“It was costing us a lot for a select few,” he said. “Does ithurt those 18 students? Yes. I can’t deny that. But I have morethan 3,000 students to think of.”

The county district will continue to offer some basic vocationalinstruction at each of its four campuses, he said. Those coursespresently include agriculture, environmental science, woodworkingand carpentry and basic welding.

In future years, should interest in the program grow, thedistrict could look at supplying some other basic and advancedvocational instruction on its own campuses, Brister said.

“We’ve already got the buildings because of our other vocationalofferings,” he said.

The vocational buildings on county campuses are all relativelynew, Brister said. None are older than five years and all have roomfor expansion.

The district’s cost of financing its own advanced vocationalprograms would not be as expensive as one might think, Bristersaid.

While the agreement with the city served the district well inthe past, that money combined with state and federal funds designedto help pay for salaries and equipment would go a long way towardsfunding future programs, he said.