VINELAND — As Cumberland County’s 2-year-old vocational school continues to fill its halls, it’s already preparing for the future with plans for a $23 million addition for its medical program, school officials said.
“It has been over many of our years here at TEC that the health, science and medicine program has always been one of extreme popularity,” Cumberland County Technical Education Center Superintendent Dina Elliott said.
CCTEC is awaiting approval from the state Department of Education to move forward with a 55,000-square-foot expansion for the 203,000-square-foot school building that opened in 2016, Elliott said. The land is being purchased from Cumberland County College.
At full capacity, CCTEC’s current building can hold about 1,000 students. The expansion would add 200 seats, but Elliott said they would only be taking about 100 more students in the first four years.
Elliott said that each year, CCTEC has seen increased interest in the school, with the medical program being the majority of students’ first choice.
For 2018-19, of the 694 total applicants to the school, 185 applied for the medical program. Elliott said that currently, CCTEC can only accept 40 freshmen into the program, which works closely with nearby Inspira Medical Center.
“We can’t graduate them fast enough because the job market is very in need,” she said.
The expansion is being funded by a bond, expected to be approved by the county freeholder board following state approval. The Cumberland County Improvement Authority will design and build the project, said CCIA CEO and President Gerard Velazquez.
According to Velazquez, the authority hopes to put the project out to bid this summer and award a bid by the fall. Once the building is complete, the authority would turn it over to CCTEC. Velazquez said the hope is for fall 2019, but it may not be until the winter.
CCTEC next year will serve about 700 freshmen through juniors. Elliott said 2019-20 will be the first school year the vocational school will serve its full complement of ninth through 12th grade. It is also the year the expansion would open, she said.
Velazquez said CCIA has been talking with CCTEC for the past several months about the possibility of expansion due to the popularity of the programs there.
“We wanted to make sure we had a rationale for expanding the building,” he said.
Velazquez said the CCIA is working with Cumberland County College to finalize a purchase agreement for the land to build the addition. It will be attached to the current building via a hallway, which Velazquez said will save the school on costs because many facilities such as the cafeteria and gymnasium can be shared. The new complex also includes softball and baseball fields.
Elliott said the budgetary impact of the new building will not be felt until it opens and additional staff is added to meet the students’ needs. She said no additional administrative positions will be added.