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Mitchell academy gets $1.2M grant

Students participate in a girls-only welding class Wednesday at the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)1 / 2
Jed Schoenfelder, welding instructor at the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy, gives a demonstration to his intro to welding class, "Welding for Gals," Wednesday afternoon. The class is offered once a year. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)2 / 2

Gov. Dennis Daugaard is showing exactly how vital he believes career and technical education will be to South Dakota's future.

Wednesday, Daugaard announced 12 recipients of the Governor's Grants for Career and Technical Education, including a grant of $1,240,228 awarded to Mitchell School District.

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The money locally will go toward renovation of the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy (MCTEA) building and its programs, which prepare high school students for specific trades, crafts and careers.

"It's exciting the governor is seeing the importance of career and technical education at the high school level and is funding it," said Denise Hoffman, director of the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy. "It's not an opportunity career and technical education courses normally get, because CTE typically hasn't been in the forefront."

MCTEA is a partnership between Mitchell Technical Institute and its parent institution, the Mitchell School District. Students who attend the classes can receive college credits for some institutions such as Mitchell Technical Institute and Dakota Wesleyan University.

Another area district that's benefitting from the grants is Burke, which is receiving $604,010 for mobile units, in cooperation with Andes Central, Colome and South Central school districts. Mobile units are semi truck trailers with labs inside of them.

The statewide grants, which are a combined total of more than $8.5 million, assist school districts in developing CTE programs and strengthening programs that already exist. The funds will help middle schools and high schools to partner with each other, other school districts, postsecondary institutions and those in the industry.

They were made available through the South Dakota Future Fund, which was created by Gov. George Mickelson to invest in South Dakota's workforce and build its economy. They are available on a one-time basis, so grant projects must be self-sustaining beyond this initial investment.

In all, 26 applications were received, requesting a total of $20 million.

"CTE programs are crucial in preparing South Dakota students for all the opportunities awaiting them after graduation," Daugaard, a Republican, said in a news release. "Programs are strongest when all the key players work together: secondary education, postsecondary education, and business and industry."

Hoffman said MCTEA counts 574 students who have taken its courses this school year, but some of those students are counted more than once because they have taken multiple courses.

MCTEA offers five programs: Project Lead The Way Biomedical Science; Welding; Nutrition and Culinary Arts; Health Science; and Project Lead The Way Pathway to Engineering. This fall, three new programs will be added, including Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Automotive Technology; and Architecture and Construction. Hoffman said the addition of the Architecture and Construction program relates directly to the grant.

Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves attended the announcement meeting Wednesday in Pierre and said Daugaard talked about the importance of career and technical education for both students and South Dakota's workforce.

Graves said the amount that was awarded to the Mitchell School District was the same amount that was requested and called it "a great deal of money."

"We won't be adding on to the facilities, but we will be renovating the facilities to make individual rooms updated for the new programs we're bringing in," Graves said. "We're going to be providing some training to teachers, renovating facilities and purchasing equipment and we're also going to be updating the technology infrastructure in that building."

This is the second major grant that's going toward career and technical education in Mitchell within a month. Mitchell Technical Institute received about $1.15 million of state grant money last month to help upgrade equipment in six of the school's programs.

The money, which is from a state Future Fund grant, is one of the steps Daugaard is taking to help boost South Dakota's technical workforce, an initiative he promised to launch during his State of the State speech at the beginning of the year.

"What is happening here, the governor is reacting to the demands of the workforce and shortages in skilled workers," MTI President Greg Von Wald said. "In high schools as a whole, much of the career and technical education has gone away. So that's what we're doing, expanding the pipeline into the critical-skilled areas."

The following school districts were awarded grants Wednesday:

• Aberdeen School District, $2 million for the construction of a new regional CTE facility.

• Burke School District, $604,010 for mobile units, in cooperation with Andes Central School District, Colome School District and South Central School District.

• Madison Central School District, $376,808 for health science, transportation and manufacturing programs to serve area schools.

• Meade School District, $89,967 for welding and machining programs.

• Mitchell School District, $1,240,228 for the renovation of the regional CTE center.

• Northeast Technical High School, $150,000 toward middle school courses and dual credit ag courses.

• Northwest Area Schools Multi District, $830,800 toward mobile units.

• Rapid City Area School District, $2 million to enhance dual and concurrent enrollment options for regional high schools.

• Sioux Falls School District, $768,454 to add two new classrooms at the CTE Academy.

• Todd County School District, $103,560 to expand middle school and high school course offerings, in cooperation with White River School District.

• Vermillion School District, $99,380 for a public-private partnership in construction trades.

• Yankton, $280,325 for regional CTE offerings.