KNOX COUNTY - State officials, school board members and community leaders gathered in front of the Knox County Career and Technical Center (CTC) Monday, as the school received a $10 million check meant for building renovations and programing improvements.
“It’s an exciting day for the Knox County Career and Technical Center,” said Knox CTC Principal Ralph Halcomb, who has been with the school for the last 16 years.
Halcomb said he felt as excited as the local residents were in 1960, the year the school was first built. It received one renovation in 1966 to add an office space suite and additional classroom space and is one of the oldest centers in the state not to have received any significant renovation since it was built, says the Knox County School District.
The school district assumed control of the Knox County CTC on July 1 of this year. Prior to that, it had been part of the Kentucky Tech system of state-operated vocational schools. The school district says the local board of education will utilize the state funding of $10 million along with local bonding and American Recovery Act funds to expand the size of the center and its programs. The school district is also hopeful the new center will serve as a feeder school to the new Southeast KCTCS Barbourville campus, which is expected to open in March 2022.
“Students will be able to earn industrial certification, take part in internships, apprenticeships and earn dual credit with their higher education partner, Southeastern Kentucky Community and Technical College, and other work-based learning,” noted Knox County Superintendent Jeremy Ledford. “Our goal is to have our students ready for the workforce by graduation.”
Kentucky State Senate President Robert Stivers commended Ledford and the Knox County Board of Education’s collaboration with other local leaders in being awarded the state funding.
“I think this is what made the application so strong, is that you had the collaboration between the two high schools in the Knox County system, the city school here, and the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College,” Sen. Stivers said. “Those are the type of things that need to be done, because we don’t have the ability to put a school in every spot.”
Sen. Stivers then shared the experiences of his own children, explaining how one had went through the more traditional post-secondary route earning her master’s degree, while another had taken a more technical and vocational route.
“What the key component of that is, is that both of them, no matter which direction they went, are very well qualified and have good jobs in different sectors of society. And that should be our goal,” Stivers said.
Stivers said that as legislators, he and other state senators set the policy, but it’s up to the executive branch to make the determination as to “where the money goes.” Stivers commended Governor Andy Beshear’s office and the Department of Education for making the “right determination” in putting the $10 million into the Knox County CTC.
Earlier this month, Gov. Beshear announced the $10 million coming to Knox County was part of a total $75 million meant to fund renovation projects at local area vocational education centers around the state. Knox County joins Magoffin, Christian, Johnson, Lawrence, Fayette, Trigg and Ballard Counties, along with Bardstown Independent in receiving funding. Knox County was one of six projects to receive $10 million, the most allotted to any one project.
“Our vocational programs are essential – providing education for our students, opportunities for our workers and a skilled workforce for our businesses to move our communities forward and continue our economic momentum,” said Beshear. “This funding will ensure that Kentucky workers have access to state-of-the art vocational facilities to learn the skills and trades they need to compete in our workforce.”
The announcement and awarding of funds comes after years of planning and trying, said State Representative Tom O’Dell Smith, who also mentioned he had worked with former Knox County Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles in making the project a reality.
Smith said his goal with helping bring the project to fruition was to give Knox County students hope, to show them that they could earn a high-paying salary in a certified job, in which they will prepared for through the programming at the Knox County CTC.
“If we can do that for our young people, I don’t think there’s anything greater that I can leave them here, or Senator Stivers can leave, saying we’ve done good in this area,” he said, before mentioning in Stivers’ presence that his next goal was to gain the Senator’s support in renovating the gymnasium at Lynn Camp and help bring an aerospace program to the Knox County School District.
As for the Knox County Career and Technical Center, Sen. Stivers told the Times-Tribune that he was under the impression it could take up to two years before designing, engineering and construction are finished. But the wait hasn’t put a damper on Halcomb’s spirit, who believes the project and funding will help lead the Knox County CTC to becoming a top-10 performing center in the state.
“It’s our mission here to empower the workforce of tomorrow, to build a better community, and thanks to Representative Tom O’Dell Smith and Senator Stivers and the Knox County Board of Education, I think our goals will be achieved,” said Halcomb. “I’m so excited to be able to celebrate what we have to look forward to, and what our students have to look forward to. It’s well deserved. They deserve the best and that’s what they’re going to get here at the CTC.”