The Lincoln Board of Education on Tuesday approved building a $25 million career and technical education academy at Southeast Community College.

Lincoln Public Schools plans to split the $25 million cost to construct a home for the academy with SCC. The academy will cost the district about $500,000 in new costs annually, including $125,000 in new operational costs.

“When this opens up, it's going to be a major flashpoint of excitement in the community,” Superintendent Steve Joel said. “It's going to provide more options for students moving forward.”

At the earliest, the academy would open in fall 2015, said John Neal, assistant to the superintendent who led the planning and research process. However, the district has yet to establish a timeline for construction, he said.

LPS hopes to pay for its $12.5 million share with a bond issue pending approval from a community advisory committee.

The district has secured about $30,000 in grants to pay for professional and curriculum development costs for the academy. The academy will employ eight teachers, but SCC likely will cover some of the costs for those teachers.

In addition, the district plans to fold two existing focus programs -- entrepreneurship and information -- into the career and technical education academy.

The district and the community college will build the academy on SCC property at 84th and O streets. It will be open to all Lincoln high school students, who will be able to pursue various career paths at the half-day program.

The academy will offer dual-credit courses and internships, and students will be able to focus on various post-secondary goals, from two-year associate degrees to post-graduate and professional degrees.

The relationship between SCC and LPS will be laid out in an interlocal agreement. A joint board of directors will hire a director and oversee the academy.

The yet-to-be-hired director will be certified as a high school principal and will supervise eight teachers and staff.

SCC and LPS likely will share the cost of the teachers, although how many will be from the college and how many from the district still is undecided.

“It really is about finding the right teacher with the right expertise to work with the students,” Neal said.

The program will require three additional staff members, including two teachers, because the six teacher positions from the entrepreneurship and information technology focus programs will be used for the career academy.

LPS will spend about $105,000 to adjust its curriculum so elements of career education will be a part of other classes and will begin as early as grade school.

It also will beef up its career exploration software so students can create portfolios of their academic records and activities and get help with the college application process.

Neal said the district already has a $30,000 grant to help offset those costs and hopes to get additional grants.

The majority of the operating costs will be split evenly between SCC and the district, except LPS will pay for transportation and the annual subscription cost of the career software.

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Transportation costs are estimated at $149,000.

Among the shared ongoing operating costs:

* $125,000 for utilities and maintenance. LPS' $62,500 share will be offset by the savings from lease costs of the two focus programs.

* $1 million in staff costs, including a director, eight teachers, a counselor, a secured entrance monitor, custodial staff and a secretary. That includes $561,420 already being spent on the six focus program teachers.

The career clusters taught at the academy have not been decided yet, Neal said, because it depends on what industries partner on the program and because the board shouldn't approve specific programs. The career programs likely will change over the years as labor demands change.

Neal said he hoped about 500 students will enroll the first year and that it will grow to about 1,000. Students will attend for half a day and could attend summer and evening sessions.

Board member Kathy Danek said she was hopeful the academy would relieve pressure on the district to build a new high school by pulling students out of the existing high schools to attend academy classes.

Board member Barb Baier said it will be important to get private industry partners involved in the academy.

“The taxpayers in both entities are putting a lot of money into this,” she said. “I think private industry has to go and be a serious partner in this.”

Reach Kevin Abourezk at 402-473-7225 or kabourezk@journalstar.com.

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I'm a Journal Star night editor and father of five.

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