Voc schools prep for change

WESTFIELD – As the towns of Granville, Southwick and Tolland prepare for a new school year and major projects to its schools, now that they have regionalized, Westfield Vocational Technical High School (WVTHS) is also preparing for possible changes.
Currently, Granville students seeking vocational technical training attend WVTHS. Southwick-Tolland Regional High School is part of the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative, which has its own vocational high school in West Springfield. Now that Granville has joined the Southwick-Tolland district, residents they would have to attend the Collaborative’s  Career Tech high school.
WVTHS Principal James Laverty said this could affect the number of out-of-district students.  However, he said they could still enroll at WVTHS, depending on their program of study.
WVTHS offers four programs – auto body, manufacturing technology, electrical and business technology – not offered at Career Tech. Laverty said a student from Granville, Southwick or Tolland, who is interested in one of those programs, could still apply to WVTHS.
The question is whether or not Granville students currently at WVTHS can remain there, if they are in a program offered by the Collaborative.
“That decision is something the superintendent of Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional will make,” said Laverty. “I hope those students currently here will be afforded the opportunity to continue to study here and graduate here.  As for the future, it depends on which program of study they choose.”
Southwick-Tolland-Granville Superintendent John D. Barry said this week that Granville students at WVTHS will remain in their programs.
“They would stay there,” said Barry. “For the most part, in terms of schools and students services, things will remain the same.”
WVTHS has 54 out-of-district students now from West Springfield, Southwick, Granville and the Gateway Regional school district. Gateway Guidance Counselor Richard White said there are 22 Gateway students enrolled at WVTHS and 66 students enrolled at Smith Vocational High School, which is a regional school.
“We have students that apply only to Westfield and students that apply only to Smith, and some students apply to both,” said White.
Gateway regional students have the option of attending either school.  White said that some students choose their vocational school based on proximity to Westfield or Northampton.
“Some families have a history with Westfield,” said White. “They may work there and do their business there.”
White said many students who attend Smith live in the Hampshire County portions of the district, such as Middlefield and Worthington. However, he said there are many factors besides location that figure into the decision of which school to attend. White said many who choose to attend Smith study agriculture and horticulture.
Westfield Public Schools Chief Financial Officer John Kane said Westfield receives $14,000 a year for each out-of-district student at WVTHS. The funds come from the student’s home district.
“That money goes into the city’s general fund,” said Kane.
Mayor Daniel Knapik said earlier this week that he would like to set up an account for those funds.
Kane said the way it  works now, the $14,000 per student is deposited in the general fund and is supposed to be used for the schools. However, it is not earmarked specifically for WVTHS.
“It helps balance the school budget,” said Kane. “It is not restricted but is specified for school purposes.”
Kane stressed that the money for out-of-district students at WVTHS is tuition, not school choice.

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