Jacksonville Job Corps’ charter high school to expand, serve more students
By Denise Smith Amos Fri, Nov 14, 2014 @ 2:40 pm | updated Sat, Nov 15, 2014 @ 1:00 am
Jacksonville Job Corps, the federal, residential job training program, is expanding its affiliated charter school in Jacksonville so it can handle hundreds more students.
The School for Accelerated Learning & Technologies, Inc., called SALTech High, is one of only a few “drop back in” charter schools that Duval district officials said help students make progress toward graduation. The school had a graduation rate of 33 percent in 2012-13, the latest year available, and its students earned about a year’s worth of credits last school year.
But expanding SALTech has been a challenge, even though it is located within Job Corps’ 29-acre campus at 4811 Payne Stewart Drive.
Job Corps is a free, national program by the U.S. Department of Labor for poor young people, ages 16 to 24, to get job training, a general equivalency diploma, and other help.
The national program has had its own problems lately.
Some alleged misappropriation and a congressional investigation found the program couldn’t account for nearly $100 million in cost overruns during a two-year period.
The program cut its budget and capped enrollment at its 125 centers.
Instead of the usual 350 students at Jacksonville Job Corps, it was limited to 275 students, lengthening already long waiting lists of students trying to get in, said Michael LaRoche, SALTech’s principal.
SALTech will likely alleviate that by expanding its facilities so it can enroll up to 400 students a year. The charter school plans a $5 million renovation of a nearby furniture warehouse for the 2015-16 school year.
SALTech recently applied for a $1 million grant from the city for money earmarked for economic development in targeted neighborhoods.
Three private companies also are bidding to help finance the rest, LaRoche said, and the state has sent $633,000 for the project.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “It means we can take all the students Job Corps has on its waiting list. They can start here and they can get [career] training at Job Corps.”
LaRoche said about 120 to 150 students on the waiting list don’t have diplomas and would be eligible to enroll in SALTech.
The school graduated 29 students out of 125 enrolled last year.
The plans for expansion involve taking over about 50,000 square feet in the warehouse, converting it into 11 classrooms, offices and several labs for crime scene investigation training, sound engineering, cosmetology and virtual technology, he said. Currently, SALTech’s space in Job Corps’ facility includes three offices, three classrooms and a large room — about 4,000 square feet.
Denise Amos: (904) 359-4083