Gov. Andrew Cuomo will announce plans Wednesday to establish in Syracuse the state’s first regional high school and worker training center that focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, or STEAM.
(TNS) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo will announce plans Wednesday to establish in Syracuse the state’s first regional high school and worker training center that focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, or STEAM.
The governor will commit at least $71.4 million to renovate the abandoned Central High School near downtown Syracuse into a multipurpose complex that will educate and train the workforce of the future, administration officials said.
The renovated campus at South Warren and East Adams streets will house a new regional STEAM high school and a new state-funded worker training and apprenticeship center administered by SUNY Empire State College.
Cuomo plans to include the proposal in his 2020 State of the State address Wednesday at Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany.
The high school is a centerpiece and top priority of the Syracuse Surge, Mayor Ben Walsh’s technology-focused development plan that’s expected to drive the city’s growth for the next decade and beyond.
Cuomo decided to expand the project to include a new workforce training center that will offer high school equivalency degrees, advanced technical certification and college degrees.
The idea is to prepare high school graduates and workers of any age with skills for in-demand advanced technology jobs through apprenticeships and business partnerships in Central New York.
“As the resurgence of Central New York continues, the region today has a record number of jobs that employers often struggle to fill with qualified workers,” Cuomo said. “This new high school of applied learning and workforce training program will create a pipeline of educated, highly skilled workers who are equipped to tackle jobs of the 21st century that are driven by technology and are growing in the region.”
Cuomo said the expanded project is part of the commitment he made in his State of the State speech last year to support the Syracuse Surge.
The new high school, which will draw students from across Central New York, is expected to open in time for the September 2021 school year. Construction would start this year.
The project would not be able to proceed without state authorization and funding.
A bill approved by New York lawmakers in June authorizes the Syracuse City School District to establish the school in partnership with Syracuse and Onondaga County.
Onondaga County plans to issue bonds to initially pay for the renovation. The county would be reimbursed for 98% of the cost through the state Education Department’s fund for new school construction.
Cuomo has been reluctant to sign the legislation until he received assurances that local government would pay for any cost overruns in the project to renovate the building. The old Central High School opened in 1903 and hasn’t been used as a school since 1975.
Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, D-Syracuse and state Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, who wrote the STEAM school legislation, structured it so that more money would be available up front than for a typical state-supported school project.
Walsh, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon and Syracuse Schools Superintendent Jaime Alicea promised in a Dec. 3 letter addressed to state Budget Director Robert Mujica that local government would pay for any “potential unforeseen cost overruns” for the project.
Cuomo has until Feb.8 to sign the bill, agreeing to reimburse $71.4 million of the $75 million cost to renovate the old Central High School into the STEAM school. If he doesn’t act by then, the bill will lapse, and the money would have to be included separately in the state budget process.
The new regional school would be operated by the Syracuse City School District but open its doors to students from across Central New York.
Officials expect 60 percent of the new high school’s students will be from Syracuse, with the remaining 40 percent from across the region.
The school will be designed to serve 1,000 students, with 250 students per grade, in the ninth through 12th grades.
The school will open initially to ninth-graders and add a grade in each of the next three years until it serves all grades in September 2024.
Curriculum for the new school will be developed in partnership with Syracuse University, Le Moyne College, Onondaga Community College and other local colleges and universities.
The workforce training center, located on the same campus as the Syracuse STEAM High School, will offer high school equivalency, advanced technical certification and college degrees.
The training center would be modeled on the Northland Workforce Training Center in Buffalo, a $44 million project that Cuomo unveiled in 2015 as part of the “Buffalo Billion” redevelopment plan.
The Buffalo center, which opened in 2018, provides training for careers primarily in the advanced manufacturing and energy sectors.
Cuomo administration officials said Monday they did not know how much it would cost to establish the Syracuse workforce training center. SUNY Empire State College would operate the center and funding for the project would likely come from SUNY’s capital budget.
The Syracuse center would offer students of any age, including those changing careers, the flexibility to take about 800 courses online.
Workers who are changing careers would be offered free college credits for previous workplace training and experience.
Under the program, Empire State College would evaluate previous training programs completed in the workplace and assign equivalent college credits. The goal is to cut down on the time and cost for an overall college education.
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