The New CTE High School Experience – Opening Up Student Opportunity Through Inspiration and Choice

Pasco County Schools, Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation (KRAI), Land O’Lakes, FL

High skill, high wage jobs in high-demand career areas are necessary to help local communities thrive and provide stable opportunities for students as they consider their future.  As technology continues to drive career change, and the need for students to adapt to change, the pressure on employers to find candidates possessing the hard and soft skills needed to succeed increases. Educating individuals that can answer the call while being able to adapt to an ever-changing market no longer lands on colleges and universities – high schools now need to ensure students are ready to enter high-skill employment or to continue their education with more advanced standing in the career of their choice.

Pasco County Schools’ Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation (KRAI) will deliver an advanced Career Technology Education (CTE) and comprehensive high school curriculum while maintaining security, fostering career awareness, cross-disciplinary work and a vibrant culture. Inspired by the local wetland ecology of Florida, overlooking surrounding ponds and oak trees, the 180,000 sf facility will prepare students to achieve a dynamic future by creating a vibrant, diverse learning community driven by choice and the ability to learn while empowered by a collaborative spirit.

“We’re literally going to put a technical school right in the middle of what will be a future suburbia for Pasco County.” – Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd, Pasco County Schools.

Data provided from the Pasco County School District pointed to six career sectors of choice for the new facility: Engineering, Health Services, Digital Media and Design, Technology and Cyber Security, Transportation, and Building Trades. To ensure the facility provides the best resources available within these areas of study, the curriculum is split into two major zones – Core and CTE. While a pedagogical divide is apparent, the design team found an intense connection between the two parts that makes natural synergies possible. Taking cues from Raphael’s School of Athens, Core classes – aka the philosophies such as mathematics language arts, social studies and sciences – are located on the second floor. The applied, physical curriculum – the CTE courses – are on the ground level.

The incorporation of spaces fostering activity-based learning will allow interdisciplinary collaboration among students by encouraging interactions between programs. A defensible perimeter allows increased transparency into the interior. This transparency, in turn, will allow for an enhanced connection between the students and the individual career courses – promoting understanding, partnership, and most of all, choice.