Community, Local, Park Forest, Schools

Southland Career & Technical Education Center Moves Closer to Reality

name oand logo of school
(SCTEC website)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The future of the proposed Southland Career & Technical Education Center (SCTEC) in Park Forest got a little brighter recently with the announcement of a $1.4M grant from the federal government to cover the cost of the planning, engineering, and design phase of the project.

According to Percy Scott, President of Global Marketing 360, which serves as the Communications and Marketing Agent for District 227, the grant was secured through the assistance of Senator Tammy Duckworth and Representative Robin Kelly. Scott notes that the federal grant covers all costs of the initial planning phase and keeps the current five-year timeline of the project intact.

He added that the completion of the initial design phase is an important step in the process before attempting to secure additional funding from the state, as well as from major corporations in the area. Funding will also come from the budgets of the collaborative school districts.

The proposed Center would be located at the site of the former Rich East High School in Park Forest. It will provide career and technical training to the south suburban area and is promoted by a collaborative of local school districts, including Bloom Township District 206, Crete-Monee District 201-U, Homewood-Flossmoor District 223, Rich Township District 227, Thornton Fractional District 215, Southland College Prep District 162, Prairie State College, and Speed SEJA District 802.

entrance to high school with banner above the doors
The former Rich East High School is the proposed SCTEC site (Photo John Hudzik)

More details on the proposed Center can be found on the SCTEC website, which includes a video overview of the project, as well as in an earlier eNews Park Forest article.

The collaborative, working with Illinois State Representative Debbie Meyers-Martin, was working toward securing state authorization for the school through a bill under consideration in the Illinois General Assembly. However, discussions among Rep. Meyers-Martin, the collaborative, and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) determined that authority for the school could be secured directly through an application process with the ISBE. The application was submitted and approved, clearing the legal pathway for the Center to proceed.

As a result of this approval, the Illinois Department of Education will provide funding support for ongoing school operations once the facility is built. According to Meyers-Martin, the approval also makes the Center eligible for additional federal and state funds to assist in construction costs.

The challenge now is to secure the estimated $100M needed to construct the new Center. The amount includes the tear-down of the existing Rich East building and the construction of an entirely new facility.

Once completed, the Center will provide training for students to enter technical positions such as construction manager, carpenter, plumber, electrician, and HVAC technician, and would also include all the core requirements necessary for high school graduation. The Center would also provide continuing education programs to adults interested in expanding their skills.