Schools cancel co-ops

Published 10:40 pm Friday, July 16, 2010

An opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in a potential job market and receive school credit for their work will no longer be available in Suffolk Public Schools this fall.

Cooperative education offerings in business and information technology, agriculture and marketing are being pulled from Suffolk Public School high school catalogs for the 2010-11 school year due to low enrollment, school administrators said.

“Enrollment has declined in the co-ops,” Career and Technical Education and Adult Education coordinator Gail Bess said. “We reviewed the last three years of enrollment data and the electronic requests submitted for the co-ops this year and made the decision to cancel the ones that didn’t have a high enrollment.”

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Courses in each of the subject areas will continue to be offered, but at least some of the internship opportunities that had been available as credited options will no longer be supported.

The internship program had given the students the benefit of receiving high school credit for their time spent working in various positions.

“In marketing, students would get credit for working at fast food restaurants or grocery stores,” Bess said. “In the business co-op they work in different business, including Duke Automotive and medical facilities, and agriculture co-op students were often working on produce or dairy farms.”

Bess emphasized that no course offerings are being affected by the cancellation and that students interested in obtaining jobs are still able to do so. They just won’t receive school credit for the jobs, she said.

Four co-op programs will be eliminated this year, Bess said — the agriculture co-op at Lakeland High School, the marketing co-op at Nansemond River High School and the business and information technology co-op at Nansemond River and Kings Fork High schools.

Each of the programs has had fewer than 10 students enrolled in recent years, she added.

According to Bess, in the years 2007, ‘08 and ‘09, there were nine, nine and four students, respectively, enrolled in the business and information technology co-op at King’s Fork High School. One student had requested to enroll in the co-op for the 2010 through the school’s formal electronic enrollment program.

Nansemond River’s technology co-op had nine, two and four students enrolled in each of the corresponding years, and nine, seven and six students were enrolled in the school’s marketing co-op. No students had made a formal commitment to enroll in either co-op for 2010.

The agriculture co-op at Lakeland had four, two and five students enrolled, respectively.

In a survey conducted by the instructor of Lakeland’s agriculture program, 10 students showed interest in the co-op, but Bess said only two had submitted formal requests for enrollment.

Bess said the low level of interest could be for a variety of reasons.

“When students work through a co-op and earn a certain amount of work hours, they receive credits, but most of the students in the co-ops are juniors and seniors and already have the credits they need to graduate,” Bess said. “It’s just an option for students. For whatever reason, they’re not interested in working or are having a challenge finding employment.”

The elimination of the work-based learning option will be open up a teaching block and will not require teachers to be reassigned, though some extended contracts with teachers can be eliminated.