Kirkman alumni want to see vocational model returned - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Kirkman alumni want to see vocational model returned

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Courtesy: Times Free Press Courtesy: Times Free Press

CHATTANOOGA (Times Free Press) - When they talk about Kirkman Technical High School, most graduates get a little nostalgic.

They remember the teachers as caring, the students as hard-working and the classes as practical training that helped make them a success.

"Kirkman was a family," said 1977 graduate Gary Watkins, who now is an assistant business manager for the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. "The only thing I dislike is that it's gone." 

The old Kirkman Technical High School in downtown Chattanooga was located at the current site of AT&T Field and the Imax Theater.

And most of his classmates agree.

But the school was located downtown near where BellSouth Park and the 21st Century Waterfront now sit. The property was worth more than the city was getting from it as a vocational high school, Watkins said, so officials closed it, moved most of the equipment to Howard School of Academics and Technology and created career "academies" at other local high schools.

"It was a political and financial move," Watkins said.

And if ever there was a time to bring a similar school back to Chattanooga, it's now, the alumni say. With companies such as Volkswagen, Alstom and Wacker recently coming to the area, Chattanooga is seeing a return to its manufacturing roots, but a shortage of skilled laborers.

The career academies aren't enough, Kirkman grads say.

"I don't think you can have a great vocational school at several different places; you need one centrally located place. It's hard enough to find one good instructor in an area, let alone three or four," said Roger Layne, a 1968 Kirkman graduate and owner of East Tech Co. "Anybody [East Tech] hires from Chattanooga State, we still spend three years training them. Four years of a school like Kirkman and one at Chattanooga State, we'd have an outstanding work force."

Working Together for You: Read more from our partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press and watch Channel 3 Eyewitness News at 6:00 for a closer look at whether Hamilton County is on the verge of a re-emergence in vocational education.

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