Warwick's tech school growing amidst wider district's budgetary woes

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While district budgetary constraints and cuts have been a consistent concern throughout Warwick Public Schools, an oasis of progress can be found at the district's technical campus, which is comprised of the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center’s (WACTC) classrooms located within Toll Gate High School and, beginning this year, now at the former early learning center located at Drum Rock (just up the hill from the main campus).

WACTC Director Bill McCaffrey said there were 411 students enrolled throughout the 14 different programs, and an additional 162 freshmen students are partaking in the exploratory program, which allows them to cycle through each of the program offerings as an elective class as part of their normal schedules. That marks a 100 percent increase in participants from when the exploratory program started last year, McCaffrey said.

Students in the exploratory program were briefed on Friday morning about what the class will consist of from inside Tides Cafe, the restaurant that is used as part of the school's culinary arts program.

Over at Drum Rock’s new computer room was Liz Charette, instructor for the Cisco Networking program, which provides a balanced structure of networking and computer skills to tech-savvy students who want to get a running start in the ever-growing fields of cybersecurity and information technology. Charette has garnered a level of respect among her students that is readily apparent just from spending a short amount of time in her class. On Friday she proudly held up a schematic that was drawn up by students using computer-aided design program, which she explained was used as the basis for the organization and ultimate layout of the new classroom. The students will have additional opportunities to customize their own education through a row of personal "racks," which will be filled with computer networking accessories as they learn how to set up and maintain their own networks. McCaffrey mentioned continuing on work towards what he hopes will become an “IT center of excellence” at Drum Rock, with expanded offerings and cutting edge facilities. A lot of the programs and materials utilized at the WACTC, he mentioned, are grant funded.

Both McCaffrey and Charette made special mention of the work performed by district maintenance employees, who have worked tirelessly to get the space set up and ready for students.

(Pictures and story by Ethan Hartley)

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