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JHS Students Return To Career P-TECH Academy

Summer Hannold of Jamestown is pictured during the 2019-20 National Honor Society induction ceremony at WNY P-TECH. Summer is currently employed at Ring Precision Components in Jamestown. Submitted photo

After concerns this summer that Jamestown Public Schools students would be disenrolled from the Career P-TECH Academy through BOCES due to COVID-19 budget restrictions, the educational partnership is back on track.

P-TECH students drawn from 27 eligible school districts around Western New York can begin a hands-on career-focused path in ninth grade, choosing from three tracks including welding technology, mechanical technology design and machine tooling.

Partnering with local businesses, P-TECH students are able to spend time in real manufacturing environments during their years in the program while earning a regents diploma and a two-year associate’s degree.

After announcing in May that 17 P-TECH students from Jamestown would be disenrolled due to pandemic budget cuts, that decision has been reversed. Those students have now been able to return to the Dunkirk campus.

“Though the process had begun, prior to my arrival in the district, to disenroll students from the P-Tech program, I knew that we had promised them a sequence of courses that led to an technical degree and the technical skills that would prepare them for a career after graduation,” Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Whitaker said. “I was very pleased to quickly gain the support of the JPS Board of Education to continue to support the enrollment of our students in this program this school year.”

It remains to be seen how the economic fallout caused by the pandemic will impact education finances at the state and local level. In the months following COVID-19 lockdowns, school districts in Western New York and around the country were forced to address drastic budget shortfalls while trying to comply with changing national and state directives.

“It was a difficult situation and I think, thanks to the work of the students and their parents and the openness of the Jamestown board, that we were able to reverse that, and that is a really important thing,” said Dr. Janeil Rey, director of workforce development for Erie 2-BOCES. “That is hard for a district to go back and put something back in the budget that has been taken out. They did the right thing.”

P-TECH was created through a $2.8 million grant written in 2014, and participating school districts pay a tuition of $20,000 per student per year.

However, much of that cost through BOCES is often offset by state aid.

“It is a little bit misleading to say that it costs districts $20,000 to send a student, because it costs them $20,000 minus their reimbursement,” Rey said.

Rey said that while the state budget picture is uncertain, she does not anticipate disenrollment moving forward.

“I think that there have been some districts who have considered lowering participation going forward, but not disenrolling students who are currently enrolled,” she said.

Whitaker expressed his support for the program moving forward, but did emphasize the importance of aidable tuition.

“I continue to support our students in this program, and I am hopeful that the state will return the aid that has been withheld from us this year in this category,” he said. “Being aided on this expense is very important to us being able to continue to fund this worthwhile program, and to continue to support our students who participate. We do what we do for the benefit of our students and our community, and I hope to be able to continue to meet our goals in this area.”

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