Non-traditional end of school year for career academy

DOUBLE SPRINGS - With the COVID-19 stirring up sickness, schools were closed in March by the Alabama State Department of Education. Homework packets were delivered to students, or they were completed online. What about the career and technical school? How will they be able to complete the year without the hands-on learning experience? Bart Shannon, director of the Winston Career Academy explains this situation.
The good news is most of the students have already received their credentials for this academic year.
“This year we’ve already seen success in our automotive and business programs,” Shannon said. “In addition, some career tech programs were in the final stages of preparation to sit for various exams to earn entry-level credentials. At this point our plans are to work with these students when we return in the fall to deliver the final pieces of instruction in-house to provide them with the best possible pathway to certification.”
One group was not fortunate enough to receive credentials, due to only being able to test for them at the end of their senior year. This is the health science group, but according to Shannon, the instructor has been working with them online in hopes for a testing option during the summer.
“Our instructors are monitoring the situation from their homes and may be contacted by email with any questions and concerns that may arise,” Shannon continued. “At this point, we are not operating from our school facilities in an effort to provide the safest possible environment for both community and staff. Once we have been given the directive that it is safe to return, we will finalize and complete any unfinished duties to close out this school year and prepare for the next.”
Since most of the actual in-house learning has already occurred, due to the last portion of the school year mainly revolving around competitions, much of the material has already been covered. The instructors in the career and technical areas have been told to note any standards which may not have been addressed and incorporate this upon return in the fall.
“This seemed to provide the most effective and attainable approach to completing the academic year due to various limitations with distance learning and the absence of the lab/shop component that is the critical piece to effective career and technical education,” Shannon said.
There are still issues which need resolving however.
“The biggest disadvantage is the lack of interaction and communication between students and faculty,” Shannon continued. “While our entire staff is available by email, it is still hard to touch base with some students and do an effective job of monitoring their progress towards these goals. Nonetheless, the staff is dedicated to assisting all of our students in completing their high-school requirements and making the transition to the professional world.”
Another issue would be the incoming 10th graders. Near the end of each year, the ninth grade classes are led on a tour of the academy. From this point, each student has better knowledge to choose which vocation best suits their abilities. With the schools closed, these upcoming 10th grade students will not have the opportunity.
“This campus tour is instrumental in allowing students to experience our facilities first-hand,” Shannon mentioned. “Once we gather as a district to develop plans for moving forward, I expect there will be some discussion regarding a way for next year’s sophomores to do this at the start of school as they develop their schedules and determine their individual pathways.”
Another year-end event is the awards ceremony where eligible students are inducted into the National Technical Honor Society and credentials are awarded. Parents and students attend the ceremony yearly. Shannon mentioned it is on hold with plans to re-evaluate within the next few weeks.
“We sincerely hope to be able to recognize our many student accomplishments. However, due to the directives from the ALSDE and the decision to end the school year in a non-traditional fashion, I’m sure that we will not be able to recognize these students in the same format we’ve conducted the past few years. Ultimately, we will do whatever is feasible to recognize the hard work and dedication of our students and staff.”
Shannon says the WCA is staffed with a group of individuals who are committed to the success of the students and that they are provided with the best possible opportunity for that success. He also added the staff was able to assist other schools in the district during the beginning stages of the shut down.
“While this situation has created many challenges for us all, it has also created opportunities for our staff to become more involved in the communities we serve. The instructors from our shop courses worked together to construct the boxes that were used at each school campus for students to return their work. In addition, several other faculty members assisted in the distribution of work packets and meals at various school campuses throughout the district.”
Shannon gives his thanks to the Winston County School System for supporting the students and community during this unique time.
“In addition, I want to thank our communities for their support and cooperation as we all work together to get through this historic event. While the situation is unfortunate, especially for our senior students, I’m sure there are many lessons that we can all learn from this as we move forward as a community.”

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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