Originally created 07/03/97

Aiken Co. to expand career center

LANGLEY - Jennifer Rudder spends her school days handling power tools.

A student at the Aiken County Career and Technology Center, she is the only female in her machine technology class, which has about 13 students.

Half the day is spent at Midland Valley High School with her nose in the books. The other half is spent making machine parts from aluminum, brass and metal.

"The guys told me I couldn't do it, so I was determined to make a go at it," Jennifer said, who was voted student of the year.

Jennifer, a rising junior, is part of a growing number of students who have enrolled in the Aiken County Career Center to learn a trade.

The center serves about 350 students from five area schools.

Because the center is near capacity and the demand continues, the Aiken County School District has decided to expand and renovate it.

Construction is scheduled to begin in January.

Director Joe Dowling said plans call for five additional classrooms and three shops, bringing the cost to $2.4 million.

The project was included in the district's five-year facility plan and was accounted for in the 1997-98 budget.

For three decades, the career center has served students from Midland Valley, North Augusta, Silver Bluff, Aiken and South Aiken high schools.

And during those 30 years, the center has remained basically the same, with the exception of a fresh coat of paint.

"It really hasn't changed much, but the trees have grown," said John Gratop, assistant director of the center.

"We're glad the school district is being aggressive. We really need the extra space."

But two modular units will remain on the campus, unless construction plans are altered.

Several members of the Aiken County School Board have proposed adding two classrooms to the blueprints to accommodate each of the 11 programs.

"Why spend millions of dollars on a facility if it doesn't accommodate all our students?" Mr. Dowling said.

Additions to replace the modular units will cost an extra $150,000.

Board members may vote on the request at Tuesday night's regular meeting.


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