At its Monday meeting, Charlottesville City Council is expected to receive an update on the ongoing transition at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center as the city completes its $5.3 million takeover of the facility.
A preview of that presentation by Charlottesville City Schools Superintendent Royal Gurley available online provides a glimpse at what will change and what will stay the same at the school — including student access, tuition and operations.
CATEC was founded in 1973 as a jointly owned and operated facility between the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, providing technical education to adults 16 years and older in such subjects as automobile technology, cosmetology and masonry, among others.
The city school division announced in February that it would be taking ownership of CATEC by July 1, 2024, completing a takeover that Albemarle County Public Schools tried and failed to accomplish late last year.
In making that offer in 2022, the county “dissolved” the agreement between the two school divisions, which in turn allowed the city school division to launch a takeover bid of its own. Charlottesville City Schools had 60 days to decide whether to accept Albemarle’s offer or purchase the county’s stake in CATEC, according to an offer letter obtained by The Daily Progress.
Gurley and Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Haas have been meeting regularly as they work through the details of the CATEC deal, according to Charlottesville City Schools. And Charlottesville and Albemarle school officials have both said the transition process is going smoothly so far.
CATEC currently has 400 available seats in 10 high school programs, according to a copy of Gurley’s presentation available online. Of those 400 seats, 25% are allotted to Charlottesville, Albemarle, Monticello and Western Albemarle high schools; the remaining seats are open to homeschool families and out-of-district students from nearby Louisa and Fluvanna counties.
Since CATEC was established, Charlottesville and Albemarle’s school divisions have split the costs of maintaining the facility based on the number of students in attendance — though Gurley’s presentation notes capital improvement costs are split 50-50.
Albemarle County, whose students make up 75% of the CATEC student body, pays a proportionately larger amount to fund the school. Charlottesville City Schools contributed $613,638 to CATEC’s operating budget for the 2021-2022 school year. Albemarle gave CATEC roughly $1.98 million for the same period.
Since a takeover was first discussed publicly, first with Albemarle and now with Charlottesville, concerns have been raised about access for the individual divisions’ students and funding.
Once Charlottesville completes its takeover, “slots will be offered to ACPS under rolling agreements for periods not less than 3 years,” according to Gurley’s presentation notes. “If a student finishes year 1 at CATEC and remains in good standing, the student is guaranteed a slot for year 2 in each division’s allocation of slots.”
Multiyear agreements will ensure no sudden changes that could cause undue fiscal or operational stress for all stakeholders, according to the presentation, and the initial percentage of slots offered to Albemarle students will approximate the current slot allocation.
“Even if ACPS one day does not use as many slots in CATEC, the center is a valuable component of the area’s youth and adult workforce development strategy,” according to Gurley’s presentation.
Gurley’s presentation notes that Charlottesville’s model for a new CATEC is different than the one offered by the county a year ago, as it makes specific guarantees about Albemarle student access.
“While a June 2022 offer from ACPS offered CHS students the possibility to continue attending CATEC for a time, the letter did not address how operations would be maintained to ensure access for CCS students,” according to the presentation. “The final offer from ACPS in December 2022 did not address continued access for CCS students .”
As far as tuition moving forward, Gurley’s presentation says that will calculated based on:
Total operating budge, excluding all capital expenses.Less certain overhead costs, including utilities, maintenance and noninstructional personnel.Less any programs or resources that are exclusive to a division, charged directly to the appropriate division.Divided by the total number of slots at the school.
The tuition rate of a Charlottesville-run CATEC will be set on a biennial basis, corresponding with the state biennial budget process, with the consumer price index applied to first-year tuition to determine the rate for the second year.
“This same slot tuition rate will be charged to any school district reserving student slots outside Charlottesville,” the presentation notes. “For ACPS, this calculation will result in lower costs per slot than would have been incurred under continuation of the partnership due to capital and overhead costs now funded solely by the City.”
Among the changes that have already been announced for CATEC: The school will be renamed the Charlottesville Area Technical Education Center once the city school division completes its takeover in 2024.
Charlottesville City Council is expected to 4 p.m. on Monday in chambers at City Hall at 605 E. Main St.. A link to the livestream of the meeting can be found at https://www.charlottesville.gov/zoom.