Walk into one of Ranum Middle School’s entrances today and you’ll find boxes filled with school supplies, tables on dollies and desk chairs stacked on carts. Fast forward to 2024 and be …
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Walk into one of Ranum Middle School’s entrances today and you’ll find boxes filled with school supplies, tables on dollies and desk chairs stacked on carts.
Fast forward to 2024 and you will be welcomed by a sunlit atrium that’s bustling with students learning career technical skills like welding, carpentry, phlebotomy, sports medicine and more.
“This won’t look like a school,” said Ryan McCoy, executive director of post-secondary workforce readiness for Westminster Public Schools.
That’s because Ranum Reimagined, a project to transform the former middle school into a career technical education (CTE) campus, kicked off this past summer with Phase I. The school originally operated as Ranum High School from 1962 until 2010.
The goal is for students to be able to pursue a career while earning a high school diploma, if they so choose. Ranum Reimagined will provide the space for students to collaborate with industry experts and have not only a high school diploma in hand on graduation day, but also professional certificates, college courses or skills ready to be used in a full time job.
Westminster Public Schools already offers career technical education, but this project will expand those opportunities.
They plan to build off their current programs and add pathways to entry level positions such as pharmacy technicians, phlebotomists, certified nursing assistants, sports medicine, physical therapy and more.
Those specific skills aren’t random. WPS asked the Colorado Department of Labor and Adams County what labor the state needs. As well, they teamed up with industry partners across the state.
The campus will also be cross disciplinary, meaning health care students might work with manufacturing students to mimic how industries often intersect with each other. Electricians would take their math courses through the lens of the electrical program.
“Our goal at the end of the day is that every pathway that we put within this facility will put a student on the path to a thriving wage, and not just a livable wage,” McCoy said.
On April 26, Westminster Public Schools Board of Education approved funding for Phase I: $10 million came from the general fund and $10 million from Certificates of Participation from the 2018 mill levy override.
“We are looking to renovate the 200,000 square foot facility to turn it into the state of the art, innovation and Career Technical Education Campus," McCoy said.
The demand for the campus comes from industries in Westminster, the rest of the state and across the country needing workers with skills outside of a four-year degree. Westminster Public Schools already has some of these programs, but Ranum Reimagined will hopefully meet that growing demand.
“We already have 13 different (CTE) pathways, but a number of our programs are at capacity,” McCoy said. “Part of our goal with Ranum is to ensure that we are expanding our CTE programming that we already have to really meet the needs of our community, as well as industry partners, for the future.”
They will start with renovating only the first floor. Phases II and III are subject to change after more conversation with partner and community engagement efforts. Based on student surveys, Phase II will focus on public safety skills with programs like police cadets, fire sciences and EMT.
The plan for Phase III will be to include aviation, aeronautics, aerospace and drone technology.
While the entire project, which includes two other phases, still needs the architects’ final drafts, Westminster Public Schools already started building partnerships with different community stakeholders because a goal of the program is to train students for potential jobs in the future.
One of the partnerships will be with Front Range Community College. Rebecca Woulfe, vice president of academic affairs, said FRCC hopes this will help expand their programs, as well as offering their classes to Ranum students.
Students will be able to take FRCC classes at Ranum and earn college credit. Not only students, but adult learners who fall outside the 18 to 24 year old age range will be able to take FRCC classes and the CTE programs.
“These are learners who probably work during the day, who probably have families, who may be responsible for other caregiving responsibilities, and so we would love to partner with Ranum on finding ways to provide evening classes, weekend classes, classes that are offered online or remotely,” she said.
Another partnership will exist between the school and the recently approved Uplands development in Westminster.
The Uplands Community Collective plans to help transform WPS’ construction pathway program to help train, and eventually hire, graduates of Ranum. The Uplands buildout will take about 15 to 20 years.
Jeff Handlin, the leader of the Uplands development, noted the shortage of construction and other labor within Colorado.
“Just imagine if a Westminster Public Schools’ CTE graduate gets a job building out Uplands and ultimately rents or buys their first home in the community. That’s the full-circle opportunity we’re working to achieve,” he said.
The hope is that Ranum will also bring jobs to the community and workers to jobs.
“We're living in a climate where it's very hard to find employees,” Woulfe said. “This program will provide a larger employee base for (local businesses) to hire from.”
Not only for Westminster, but also across the state.
"This will be a regional hub for employers to look for future employees," McCoy said.
As well, he said the training programs could not only educate the student, but provide services to nearby residents.
For example, the medical training programs could open up into a clinic, which would give students clinical hours and residents medical services.
Multitude of options
McCoy said that students are forced to make tough choices today.
“I think students right now more than ever have a magnitude of options,” he said. “I think some students don't see a four year pathway as a viable pathway for them because we talk about student debt, and those are real concerns for them.”
He said students understand only a high school diploma won’t cut it for many jobs. Post secondary training on top of that diploma will help make a student financially stable.
Woulfe agreed and said not only are younger generations thinking more about what the future holds, but the paradigm is shifting. The pressure to pursue a four-year degree is lessening.
“As a society, we're recognizing that there are several paths to success.” she said.
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