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Albemarle County Public Schools wants to buy CATEC

Albemarle County Public Schools is in discussions with Charlottesville City Schools about buying full interest in the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center.

“This really is a perfect fit for us,” said Phil Giaramita, public affairs and strategic communications officer for Albemarle County Public Schools.

CATEC, founded in 1973, is currently jointly owned by Albemarle County Public Schools and Charlottesville City Schools. Most of the school’s 362 students are from the county—295 students in county schools are enrolled at CATEC, while 67 attend city schools. Another 267 adult students are in its adult education programs, where they can be trained as carpenters, cosmetologists or computer technicians, among other fields.

The county school division said that it wants to buy CATEC in part to modernize it. The campus is large—about 60,000 square feet—but hasn’t been updated in years.

“For years, while CATEC has added programs, the facility really has not been upgraded or modernized in any way,” Giaramita said. “We’re prepared to make substantial investments to modernize the facility, to improve the equipment, to increase program offerings.”

If Albemarle County Public Schools does reach an agreement with Charlottesville City Schools, much would remain the same at CATEC. The technical school would offer an updated version of its current programs, but the county school division hopes to expand on what the school does best: using a project-based learning approach to strengthen its curriculum and providing programs that build on its connections to private employers.

Project-based learning asks students to design their own projects—be it community service, research or something else altogether—to achieve a particular learning outcome. It’s based in “the idea that if kids are passionate about it and more engaged, it improves their ability to learn,” Giaramita said.

Albemarle County Public Schools said that, under its offer to the city, high school students from the city will continue to attend CATEC. The board feels that this way, everyone’s interests will be protected.

“We think this will be a substantial benefit for students from both the city and the county,” Giaramita said.

“We’re hopeful that our discussions with the city will lead to an agreement next year,” Giaramita said.

CATEC currently offers 10 high school programs, providing hands-on and work-based learning opportunities that equip students to either immediately enter the workforce or to pursue post-graduate education. Students can receive, on average, 11 dual-enrollment college credits from local community colleges and benefit from partnerships with post-secondary institutions and employers. Some students immediately enter the workforce, while others go on to college.


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