Criminal justice, biomedical CTE programs will launch in fall at BHS

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BURRILLVILLE – The Rhode Island Department of Education has approved two new Career and Technical Education programs for the Burrillville School District, allowing coursework in criminal justice and and biomedical science to come with expanded opportunities for students starting this fall.

The approval also has financial implications, allowing the district to collect tuition for students from other towns who sign up for the programs.

The new CTEs join three RIDE-certified programs already offered at the school: environmental science, engineering and construction management.

“I’m really excited and happy that RIDE has granted us full approval,” said Supt. Michael Solitto while announcing the news.

While the high school previously offered curriculum in biomedical science as a learning “pathway,” the official stamp of approval means the BHS coursework has met RIDE certification requirements by providing opportunities for students in both higher education and real world experience.

CTEs focus, in part, on work-based learning through internships and projects.

Burrillville High School students, from left to right, Cora Lambert, grade 11; Andrew Lacouture, grade 12; and Isaac Astillero, grade 12, work on a robot in the school’s Robotics and Pre-engineering CTE pathway.

The biomedical program will be run through Project Lead the Way, allowing students to earn college credits through articulation agreements. In the introductory course, students will explore concepts of biology and medicine to determine factors that led to the death of a fictional person. While investigating the case, the students will examine autopsy reports, investigate medical history, and explore medical treatments that might have prolonged the person’s life.

The activities and projects aim to introduce students to human physiology, basic biology, medicine, and research processes while allowing them to design their own experiments to solve problems.

In the second year of the biomedical program, students will examine the interactions of human body systems as they explore identity, power, movement, protection, and homeostasis in the body. Exploring science in action, students build organs and tissues on a skeletal mannequin; use computer hardware and software to monitor body functions such as muscle movement, reflex and voluntary action, and respiration; and take on the roles of biomedical professionals to solve real-world medical cases.

Some careers that are explored through the class activities include forensic anthropologist, forensic DNA analyst, eye care professional, dietitian/nutritionist, sports medicine physician, athletic trainer, physical therapist, respiratory therapist, burn care nurse, anesthesiologist, reconstructive surgeon, psychologist, and X-ray technician. Students research how these medical professionals help treat patients with various diseases and conditions.

To meet RIDE standards, the district had to offer at least three classes in biomedical science, as with each specialized field.

Burrillville High School launched its first CTE program – environmental science – in the 2016/2017 school year. This year, the district added engineering and construction management to its list of RIDE-approved CTE coursework.

Students starting at the high school in 2019/2020 can now also choose the biomedical coursework, or focus on criminal justice, and learn what is involved in choosing a career in the main areas of that field: law enforcement, corrections, the courts and legal careers.

According to proponents, students taking criminal justice at BHS receive not only theoretic foundations in terms of learning the basic concepts, vocabulary, and applications in each of the above-mentioned areas, but also receive some practical, skills-based training. The skill set could come in handy when students apply for and work in entry-level positions in the criminal justice fields.

Criminal justice students earn credentials through Precision exam assessments. and college credit through an articulation agreement with Roger Williams University.

CTE programs are similar to what was once called “vocational training,” but in Rhode Island, there’s incentive to develop more, as students can choose to attend a program offered elsewhere, making their home district liable for tuitions of up to $18,000. The RIDE system, aimed at providing kids with more opportunities, has resulted in something of a race between neighboring districts to attract students.

“Each district offers programming based on a number of factors,” said Sollitto. “We have built our programs reflective of the community, student input and technical knowledge we already had in house.”

The district also applied to have child care, computer science and graphic design as certified CTEs, but did not gain RIDE approval.

“We will address the program feedback from RIDE and re-apply next school year,” the superintendent said.

Sollitto said five out-of-district students have already applied in the new programs and the district’s goal is to attract 10.  Burrillville students are given preference, but seats are still open.

And school officials the parents and school proponents will help to spread the word.

“Word of mouth – that will probably be our best advertisement,” said School Committee member Terri Lacey.

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