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Blackstone Valley Tech Explores New Programming

With nearly half of eighth graders in its 13-town district applying for admission in the fall of 2014 and others traveling out-of-district to seek a vocational technical education, the Blackstone Valley Vocational Regional School District is exploring an expansion of its programming.

 Of the more than 800 recent applicants to Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, a total of roughly 300 students were accepted. The discrepancy between supply and demand for seats at Valley Tech has grown annually, according to District School Committee Chairman Joseph M. Hall of Bellingham, and is expected to continue growing as residents of the Blackstone Valley increasingly recognize the value of a strong academic and vocational technical education. 

In addition to the rising number of applicants to BVT, Hall said the program expansion would also address concerns raised by district towns regarding the financial impact of local students enrolling in vocational technical schools outside of the Valley Tech district. If those schools offer a vocational technical program not offered by Valley Tech, the student's sending town is responsible for the out-of-district tuition cost, which is often significantly higher than the cost of tuition to Valley Tech. As a result, Hall said that finance committees within the BVT 13-town district have asked the District School Committee to consider establishing some of the vocational technical programs currently drawing children to out-of-district schools.

"Each year, more and more families are telling us they want a vocational education for their son or daughter. It's our responsibility to meet the needs of our communities and respond to the desires of community leaders seeking to minimize out-of-district tuition to other vocational institutions," Hall said. "The families of our district have spoken through their applications for admission and their selection of out-of-district vocational education."

 In order to address the rising number of applicants while mitigating the costly burden of out-of-district tuitions, Hall said Valley Tech is prepared to establish three new vocational technical programs in Engineering Technology, Veterinary Assisting, and Legal and Protective Services. 

 To make room for the new programs, the District School Committee is considering a request for a $2.9 million debt-restructuring proposal to renovate and reconfigure the school. Through the renovation of existing space, relocation of programs, and construction of new laboratories and classrooms, the project would allow Valley Tech to accommodate some 50 additional students per year, resulting in an eventual total of 200 new seats. As with all Valley Tech projects, the District will seek to maximize the $2.9 million investment via self-completed, cost-effective infrastructure improvements.

 In keeping with its track record of creative cost-effective financing, Valley Tech's proposed restructuring of existing debt unanimously approved in 2001 is projected to save District towns roughly $850,000 on the existing bond obligations. New bond payments would be shared among the 13 municipalities over a 20-year period and the local impact of the new bond would be delayed until Fiscal Year 2016. Valley Tech has even offered a 50 percent rebate of each town's debt assessment associated with the first two years of the new bond.

"One of the most significant benefits of the potential proposal is that our municipal partners would share in the refinancing savings and each town will have 12 partners in sharing the annual cost of any new bond," said Superintendent-Director Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick. "With so many contributors resulting in a modest annual contribution per town, we believe that approval of this project would not require any debt exemption."

 The Blackstone Valley Vocational Regional District School Committee is scheduled to vote on the proposed programming expansion at its April 17 meeting. If approved, the request would be considered in this year's schedule of May town meetings throughout the Valley Tech district.

 Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School serves the towns of Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northbridge, Sutton, Upton and Uxbridge.


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