School District 51 expands P-TECH program

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Diana Sirko, superintendent of Mesa County School District 51, discusses the expansion of the P-TECH program to Grand Junction School High School and District 51 Career Center.
(Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Mesa County School District 51 has expanded a program to offer more students an opportunity to simultaneously earn high school diplomas and community college degrees — and in turn, promote work force development.

Starting this fall, the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program will include medical and information technology options at Grand Junction High School and construction training at the District 51 Career Center.

For two years, Central High School has offered P-TECH programs in machining, mechatronics, mechanical engineering and welding. More than 50 students are enrolled in those programs.

Jared Burek, assistant principal at Grand Junction High School, praised the expansion. “We really pride ourselves on having an array of choices for our students,” he said at a news conference at the school.

Cam Wyatt, principal at the Career Center, also welcomed the added training that will be offered there. “This is a great day.”

Under the P-TECH program in District 51, students earn high school diplomas along with associate degrees from Western Colorado Community without paying tuition. Students can elect to complete the P-TECH program in four to six years. Students could then decide to pursue four-year college degrees, but also will be prepared to enter the work force.

Students at Grand Junction High School may participate in associate degree programs for medical laboratory technology, medical office assistant or veterinary technology as well as information and communications technology.

The P-TECH program at the Career Center is open to any District 51 student and offers associate degrees in construction as well as electric lineworker and land surveying and geomatics. 

The program at the Career Center is the first to be offered district-wide in Colorado.

Cheri Taylor, District 51 career and college readiness director, said business partnerships make the P-Tech program possible. Businesses offer students mentoring, job shadowing and internships. “That’s what the kids enjoy the most.”

Community Hospital and ProVelocity will partner with the P-TECH programs at Grand Junction High School, while FCI Constructors will partner with the program at the Career Center.

Tim Foster, president of Colorado Mesa University, said the P-TECH program builds on the collaboration among CMU, WCCC, School District 51 and businesses to promote education and work force development. “This community takes partnerships and sharing to a new level.”

District 51 Superintendent Diana Sirko agreed. “Our community personifies that every day.”

Emma Rose, a senior at Grand Junction High School, won’t enroll in the P-TECH program. But she spoke at the news conference about the benefits of students taking community college courses while they also attend high school. 

Rose said she’s earned 16 college credits and expects to earn 14 more credits before she graduates from high school this spring. She said she plans to become a nurse practitioner.