Decatur City Schools: Career Academy expands to bring in 500 more students for career training

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 1:38 PM CDT

DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - This school year, more students in the Decatur City School System are being presented with exciting new opportunities beyond the traditional classroom. The district has introduced a specialized career academy that caters to students interested in a wide array of fields, ranging from cosmetology to cybersecurity.

“Because of who we are in Decatur, we can’t just get you college-ready; we have to get you career-ready, and our career academy has done an excellent job of achieving that,” says Superintendent Michael Douglas.

The recent expansion of the academy includes the opening of a new wing for $10 million, accommodating an additional 500 students for academy classes so now 1,500 students can enroll in the supplemental classes. This model allows high school students to attend core classes at their respective high schools while coming to the academy for specialized career training. Douglas says the program continually evolves to cater to the region’s workforce demands.

“Our career academy is designed based on the needs of our area,” explains Douglas. “We take into consideration the industries that thrive in Decatur; for instance, with Toyota Mazda nearby, we’ve developed a robust automotive program. Similarly, our vibrant health and sciences courses produce skilled doctors and nurses. It’s vital for us to prioritize career readiness alongside college readiness.”

Looking ahead, Douglas plans for students to transition to full-time enrollment at the academy by the following year, allowing them to immerse themselves fully in their chosen career paths.

In addition to the focus on career education, Decatur’s school leaders have also taken significant steps to enhance security on campus.

Furthermore, the school system is putting in further enforcement against gun violence. According to data from the K-12 Shooting Database, the number of school shootings in the U.S. nearly doubled between 2020 and 2023. To safeguard students and staff, Superintendent Douglas’s team has implemented various security measures.

His team applied bullet-resistant film over window glass and introduced a weapons detection system.

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting

“We’ve put in what I call ‘the Disney system,” says Douglas. “We have a detection system all of our kids will walk through. In our high schools and middle schools, it will ensure that the stuff we don’t want coming in the school won’t come in the school.”

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