Program dropped due to low enrollment; nine TCHS students impacted
By Nicole Brown, Staff Writer, The Times
As of the end of this school year, the Wildlife and Natural Resource Management (WNRM) program at the Chester County Technical College High School (TCHS) will be cut due to low enrollment for the past five years — leaving the remaining students in the program to find other options for the coming school year.
In response to the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) Educational Board’s decision to cut the program, some of the students and their families have started a petition on Change.com, a Facebook page and an email-writing crusade to keep the program in its place.
Cynthia Sharpless, one of the leaders in the fight to keep the WNRM program and mother of a son currently in the program, expressed the great disappointment the students felt when they learned their program would not exist next school year.
“Students in the WNRM program are very devoted to their vocation and to their teacher, Mrs. Heidi Militana,” Sharpless said. “They are devastated and refuse to take this news as a final answer.”
Joseph O’Brien, executive director of CCIU, explained that the board cut the program because it failed to have an enrollment of 25 students. The board’s policy says that a program is dropped if after three years, it does not have at least 25 students enrolled in it.
The board allowed the WNRM program to remain for five years even though its highest enrollment was 19 students in 2009. In 2012, the program had 11 students, and 13 enrolled for the 2013 school year.
“The students of Chester County simply did not show enough interest in Wildlife and Natural Resource Management to allow us to justify the program,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien also cited funding for the program that the board cannot afford if the program does not meet the required enrollment.
There are nine students in the WNRM program who are not graduating this year. They are allowed to stay at TCHS, but must switch into a different program.
Mary Curley, communications director at CCIU, said that the school’s counselor is working one-on-one with each of these students to find a program that will still be beneficial to them.
“For example, one [WNRM] student, who is going to be a senior, is going into the criminal justice program because he would like to become a park ranger,” Curley said. “Part of a park ranger’s duties is law enforcement, so he’ll get to see that aspect.”
Other options the school is looking into include co-ops and internships in the field that the student is most interested in. Curley said that all the programs at the school have the same goal of letting students explore their interests and preparing them for the next step after high school, whether that is a career or enrollment in college.
Still, Sharpless argues that the students in the WNRM program will not receive the same educational benefits from other programs.
“These are kids who discovered this particular program and are certain of their future upon graduation,” she said. “They have a unique aptitude and passion for the natural sciences, and have no desire to just get swept up into another TCHS program.”
O’Brien said he and the board support the students’ and their families’ right to petition, but the ultimate decision still depends on the enrollment.
“The real impact would be to have at least 25 students enroll in the course. Then we could offer the program,” he said. “I would love to see this happen.”