Nevada high school specializes in construction education

The Academy for Career Education High School in Sparks, Nev., isn’t an ordinary secondary school. Students at ACE take all of the core classes that students at traditional high schools take and pass all the required standardized tests, but the emphasis in their education is on construction.

“Essentially our students earn the same diploma as any other public high school student in our county, but they specialize in construction and pre-engineering through their elective course selection,” said Leigh Berdrow, vice principal of ACE.

According to Berdrow, ACE’s teaching method is not traditional, but instead uses an applied academic approach. The school’s English, math, science and history teachers all incorporate construction and engineering into their curriculum.

“Our construction teachers reinforce academics into their classes as well,” Berdrow said. “This makes for more relevant material and better learning.”

Students can specialize in almost any construction trade — ranging from masonry or carpentry to plumbing and heavy equipment. The culmination of their skills is then used during the construction of a house each year by the junior and senior classes.

The ACE charter school opened its doors in 2002. During the first year of operation the school had 100 students, and the number grew to 125 students during the 2003-2004 school year. Next year, school administrators expect 140, and a waiting list for enrollment. Because the school will have reached maximum capacity at its current location, Berdrow said the facilities will probably have to be expanded.

“Our board of directors, made up of construction industry representatives, does not want to ever turn a student away,” she said.

The school’s quick growth probably has to do with the success of its students. The ACE school’s goal is that 80 percent of its graduates will be working in construction or enrolled in a post-secondary construction/engineering program within six months of graduation. With the first graduation class, 86 percent of students met that criteria, and it is expected that 92 percent of the 2004 class will meet that goal.

“At this point I have more job offers for seniors than I have seniors to fill the spots, and most are hired before graduation,” Berdrow said.

To find out more about the ACE High School and its teaching techniques, call 775-691-3249.