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A new charter school that caters to Appleton students interested in technical education classes could open as early as September 2014.
Appleton Technical Academy would serve students from 10th to 12th grades and be housed in Appleton West High School. The school will mix technical education classes with core classes like math, communication arts and social studies that will be restructured to complement students' interest in manufacturing or technical careers.
The plan is to enroll 75 students in the school's first year, said Appleton West Principal Greg Hartjes.
Educators from Appleton West proposed the new charter school to the school board's Programs and Services committee Thursday. The charter will apply for a planning grant from the Department of Public Instruction in April. If a DPI planning grant is approved, a more complete proposal will be presented to the committee in the fall.
Paul Lindberg, technical education teacher at Appleton West, said the charter is needed because while the school district provides resources for students headed to four-year colleges or entering engineering fields, students interested in technical education are the "lost crowd."
"We're missing those in-between kids who want to work with their hands. They have the skill and they want to move ahead," Lindberg said.
The idea for the school first emerged about three years ago when business leaders approached teachers in the district to discuss the need for more students entering manufacturing fields, Lindberg said.
"That started the whole discussion of, 'what are we going to do, how do we meet the needs of these kids and how do we fill that skills gap that is obviously out there,'" Lindberg said.
Many local businesses already have expressed support for the charter, including representatives from A to Z Machine Co., Fox Valley Tool and Die and Bassett Mechanical, Lindberg said. Fox Valley Technical College also has stepped forward to offer use of its facilities, equipment and teaching staff for part of the schoolday.
Student interest is high as well. According to a preliminary survey of 258 Appleton West students in technical education classes, roughly 82 percent are or might consider a career in a technology-related field after graduation, 83 percent are or might consider attending a technical college and 74 percent are or might be interested in attending a technology and manufacturing charter school at West.
The dream, Hartjes said, is for students to have completed one year of a Fox Valley Technical College's associate degree when they graduate.