Career and technical training thrives in Thornton

Column by Bill Christopher
Posted 3/6/17

There is a jewel in the Adams 12 Five Star School District crown which warrants much more attention and acclaim than it receives.

It's not any of their athletic teams or the top 5% academic …

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Career and technical training thrives in Thornton


There is a jewel in the Adams 12 Five Star School District crown which warrants much more attention and acclaim than it receives.

It's not any of their athletic teams or the top 5% academic achievers or the debate teams among the 5 high schools. I am talking about the Bollman Technical Education Center (BTEC) located south of Thornton Parkway and west of Washington Street in Thornton.

To my delight, I recently was invited to tour the facility with Westminster City Councilor Shannon Bird, BTEC Principal Janet Renden and Assistant Principal Marvin Lewis. The Bollman Center, named after Henry Bollman who was a former president of the school board member, is the school district's career and technical school which offers student fantastic opportunities in a variety of vocational fields. Built in 1974, it currently provides training to 1,038 students with the highest percentage coming from Mountain Range High School in Westminster. Another 203 students signed up for classes at BTEC but were not able to be accommodated.

A variety of pathways

The BTEC offers a wonderful selection of "hands on" classes within the 20 classrooms. Some of the classes you would expect to find at such a training facility - automotive technology, carpentry, diesel automatic technology, culinary arts, welding, home improvement & repair. However, there are others which might surprise you including - aerospace engineering, A.P. computer science, introduction to computer science, graphic design, medical sciences - EMT or CNA, principles of engineering, video production and teacher cadet program.

Vocational training given solid status

Any current ninth, tenth or 11th-grade student in an Adams 12 high school, charter school or alternative high school may apply to attend classes at BTEC in their tenth, 11th or 12th-grade year. Some courses are open to Thornton High School ninth graders. Free district transportation is provided to and from the various high schools for most of the class periods.

Since BTEC is a program of the school district, there are no tuition costs. However, some classes may require a small fee and/or specialized materials. All CTE courses fulfill the district's Fine/Practical Arts and/or Elective graduation requirements. BTEC academic credits meet district English and Science graduation requirements.

Plus, through articulation agreements with community colleges, 4-year colleges and private post-secondary institutions, students can earn college credits. Adams 12 Five Star Board of Education, Superintendent Chris Gdowski, staff and faculty are to be commended for this stellar program and facility. And the good news is that they will be building a second building from the successful bond issue to expand their program!!

College is not for every student

As I have said numerous times in my column, college is not for every student. Either from an academic or financial perspective, attending college is not the best or most viable pathway for a portion of graduating high school seniors.

School districts have a responsibility to provide vocational training opportunities to such students. Today's workforce is constantly in need of young people who have some training under their belt in such fields as welding, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, computer science, graphic design and culinary arts to mention a portion of the "trades." With Front Range Community College (FRCC) in the area, school districts can partner with the college for many of these classes.

FRCC is a great resource that could be "tapped" much more than it has been. Their campus administrators are open to working with the school districts to make these opportunities happen. Transportation seems to be a bottleneck, but it should not be the death knell to making these class opportunities happen for interested students.

Looking to the future

Fortunately, Adams 12 Five Star School District had the wisdom to keep their technology center over the years. I recognize that it is not inexpensive to provide classrooms, equipment and well-qualified teachers to offer a solid vocational experience. Other school districts in the area such as Westminster Public School District (WPS) once had a vibrant vocational program at a separate campus known as the Career Enrichment Park (CEP). It even included a functioning restaurant called Le Parc where students learned every aspect of restaurant management and culinary skills. The public could even eat lunch there for a reasonable price. Another program built a house each year and then sold it.

Unfortunately, over the course of two former superintendents of schools, the CEP became an easy target for budget cuts. Today, WSP administrators tell me they are gradually building back up to improve their vocational course selection. I would love to see WSP and FRCC parlay a set of classes which WSP students could take advantage of as well as get creative in providing the needed transportation.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

Bill Christopher


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