County plans expansion at technical school
August 11, 2005

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - Faced with booming enrollment, the Cape May County Technical School plans a $14.8 million expansion.The project calls for a 42,000-square-foot addition and renovations throughout much of the rest of the building, Superintendent William Desmond said.

The Board of School Estimate this week approved the project. Freeholders introduced a $14.76 million bond ordinance Tuesday. The state Department of Education will pay 40 percent of the debt service, Desmond said.

Desmond said the project has been two years in the making, working with Garrison Architects of Mount Laurel. The board and freeholders observed that enrollment numbers are on the rise. "We have a waiting list now. So their concerns were valid," Desmond said.

The school has about 500 full-time students and another 180 or 200 shared-time students. The expansion will let the district accept about 40 more full-time students per year.Elsewhere in Cape May County, school enrollment is declining. Thirteen of Cape May County's 16 school districts saw enrollment drop from 2003 to 2004, according to state figures.Why the discrepancy?

"We'd like to think it's because we're offering a good program," Desmond said. "They have a skill on top of their regular high school diploma."Desmond said three in four graduates continue their educations at two or four-year colleges.

"We try to reflect what careers and needs are available in your county. Since tourism is a major part of our industry, there aren't a lot of varied occupations here. But we try to give them occupations they can find employment in," Desmond said.

To that end, the expansion will make room for a new masonry program. This reflects the county's growing employment in the building trades, Desmond said."Skilled journeymen make the same as people with master's degrees, if not more. That sort of flies in the face of the idea that everyone should go to college," Desmond said. "The construction trades are offered here. We're looking at expanding them."

The expansion also will make room for a new gym, locker rooms and weight and exercise rooms. There will be a bigger diesel-engine class and a new lab for informational wiring and heating and air conditioning.With the expanding enrollment, the school is making room for more "exploratory classes." These classes are mandatory for all freshmen. They get a chance to see all the school's offerings before applying for a specialty, Desmond said.

The addition will be built on part of the parking lot. The construction will actually create about 5,000 square feet of green space on the property, Desmond said.

The renovation includes new wiring for computers. The school plans to add handicapped-accessible doors and security cameras throughout the building. There are cosmetic improvements, too, with new windows and masonry.

The technical school serves the county's adults as well. This building offered 43 courses through Atlantic Cape Community College along with nursing and master plumbing and electrician programs. "We're so much more than just a high school," he said.

The expansion should be complete by September 2007.

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