Upper Cape Tech Considers Expansion

Upper Cape TechDIANA T. BARTH/ENTERPRISE - Upper Cape Tech

Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School officials have begun a long-range planning process to address the need for more space.

School superintendent Robert A. Dutch spoke to members of the Bourne Financial Development Corporation last week and invited them to be a part of the planning process.

The superintendent pointed out that UCT was built to accommodate 500 students and the student population is now roughly 700.

He noted that the school’s property comprises 75 acres, but the current building and athletic fields take up only 20 acres. That leaves 55 acres that are currently not being used, he said.

“We’re kind of at a crossroads, and we need to make decisions,” he said.

Mr. Dutch said that the school has already reached out to the community to participate in the long-range planning process, and two meetings have already been held.

Among the 21 people who attended those meetings were Bourne selectman Peter J. Meier, Upper Cape Tech school committee members Mary L. Crook and Mark A. Mancini, Cape Cod Commission member Andrew V. Putnam, and Bourne-Sandwich Rotary Club member Mary E. Carlson.

Mr. Dutch said that the first meeting was spent identifying some of the school’s strengths and weaknesses, and challenges and opportunities. At the second meeting, planners determined that the biggest issue confronting the school ties in with the physical limitations of the school’s current building and fields—that being student acceptances. He pointed out that there are 150 students who apply to UCT annually who are not accepted because the facility cannot accommodate everyone.

The superintendent said that there are contradictary issues in play, with regard to the expansion.

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While the school may be turning away students every year, Mr. Dutch pointed out that the overall student population on the Upper Cape has been dropping. He said the decrease may lead some to question whether the school needs to expand and whether taking in more students is warranted, he said.

During last week’s meeting, BFDC member Noreen P. Michienzi said that it had been her belief UCT should have operated out of two campuses, and the school should have taken over the old Grand Union building on Clay Pond Road when the store closed in 2008.

Mr. Dutch said that other tech schools operate on separate campuses, and there have been some discussions about having a centralized regional technical school that would service both the Upper and Lower Cape. He said that the issue then becomes one of travel.

“You’ve got some programs that are very successful that you could offer on both campuses, but if you’re going to offer one on the Upper Cape campus, and a student from Eastham wants to go there, that’s a long ride. So there’s some challenges to that,” he said.

BFDC’s executive director Sallie K. Riggs pointed out that the corporation has a direct interest in UCT’s future, given the “consistently high quality of both the work and work ethic employers have come to expect” from the school’s graduates.

“We always refer to the fact that Upper Cape Tech has the capacity to help train some of the kinds of people that companies have come to need,” Ms. Riggs said.

Mr. Dutch concurred, and said that preparing a work force for the Upper Cape region is “a huge piece of our mission.”

He said that one of the school’s more successful programs is its co-op program in which students gain hands-on work experience with a local employer. He said that along with the trade skills UCT students acquire, they learn “those soft skills, the employability skills that they experience because they’re dealing with the public.”

“They know what it means to show up on time because if they’re on co-op and they don’t, they’re not going to stay on co-op,” he said.

He noted that those are the types of things that UCT does that are different from other public schools.

Mr. Dutch said that another problem the school faces is the lack of a road leading to the 55 acres of unused land that the school owns.

“There’s a lot of space in the back area, but we need a road to access it. How does that road get funded and is there a desire to do so? That’s why we initiated long-range planning,” he said.

Mr. Dutch said that he has had preliminary discussions with developers about the property adjacent to UCT, commonly referred to as CanalSide Commons. That land was recently purchased by Stop & Shop Corporation. He said that, ideally, he would like a road constructed off MacArthur Boulevard and leading to the back of the school’s property.

As for building an access road, Mr. Dutch said that such a road would be prohibitively expensive for the school on its own. Plus, the school does not own all the land between MacArthur Boulevard and UCT.

He said that if the school was able to coordinate with either Stop & Shop or the town, which owns some land there as well, it could open up land that would allow the school to expand.

“We don’t really want to add on to the current building, but I think there are a lot of community needs that could be [addressed by the project] in addition to benefiting the school,” he said. Among the needs that he believes would be helpful for the community are a performing arts center that would include an auditorium capable of seating 800 to 1,000 people and a field house that would house an indoor track, fields and gymnasiums.

Mr. Dutch said that there are three more long-range planning meetings scheduled, with the next one set for January 8 at 6 PM at Upper Cape Tech. He said that the hope is to complete the planning process by February, and then present the planners’ recommendations to the regional school committee to be incorporated into the school’s budget.

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