With at least three months to completion, more than 800 students have applied for 160 available spots at Richmond County Technical Career Magnet School, according to Richmond County Board of Education member Jack Padgett.
“It’s going to be a very big benefit to the community as a whole,” Padgett said. “When you consider having to have a trained labor force for projects like Plant Vogtle, like the initiatives going on at the Savannah River Site, a trained force is key and that high school is going to help us get that.”
The technical magnet school scheduled to open its first class in August is wrapping up construction to be ready for next school year.
The $22 million building will have six career tracks with different pathways for students to choose within each field.
The campus will be the first of its kind in the district because of its unique partnership with Augusta Technical College. The school is housed on the campus of Augusta Tech, where professors will at times work with high school students in their studies.
In its debut year, the school will only host ninth grade but will add a grade level each year for a capacity of about 750 students. Augusta Tech President Terry Elam said he expects 50 percent of the future junior and senior students to dual enroll and take college courses while still in high school. The partnership is meant to better the individual and the community at large.
“They’re going to be exposed to a college atmosphere, which means they should come out a bit more mature, able to work with people from all different backgrounds,” Elam said. “They will have to adjust like they’ve never had to adjust before.”
Elam said students who are
dual-enrolled or attend career-based high schools have a graduation rate of 95 percent statewide, which he said is a goal at Augusta’s newest high school.
The 130,000-square-foot building, designed by Augusta’s Dickinson Architects, has special energy-saving components like a daylight harvesting system and large expanses of open areas.
The cafeteria and common area will be bordered by large, vertical glass windows and an open area connecting the first and second floors.
“We wanted anything to energize the students, really,” said Nick Dickinson Jr. “We were trying to bring students to the space and have them really experience the architecture.”
Dickinson said while qualifying for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification would have been too expensive, the building was designed with cost savings in mind.
Hand rails are stainless steel to reduce future paint jobs and tiles are equipped with a graffiti-proof finish.
Along with the exterior, what’s inside is also exciting educators.
The courses offered are designed to prepare students for technical and industrial jobs after graduation. According to the Governor’s Office of Work Force Development, there will be 82,000 new jobs in manufacturing, transportation, construction and industrial sectors by 2016 and a need for workers to fill them.
Padgett said the school will produce workers to fill local jobs, especially for a demographic of students who aren’t interested in pursuing a four-year degree.
“You’re talking about walking out of high school with job-ready skills,” he said.
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said the high school will help create a better workforce in the community, especially for the projected 10,000 jobs in the local nuclear industry that are expected to open in the next 10 years.
“You’re going to have jobs and opportunities, but you’re probably not going to compete with the kids just at the desk next to you,” Copenhaver said. “You’re going to be competing with kids nationally and internationally and we now have a high school to help train kids to do that.”