Fremont school board meeting

St. Anthony residents mingle outside the Fremont Joint School District office after a Wednesday board meeting.

ST. ANTHONY — The Fremont County school patrons recently expressed interest in the Fremont School District creating a technical/vocational facility to jump start students’ careers. The survey also reported that most students planned for some type of post-secondary education.

Such was the consensus from the district’s recent feasibility study. Earlier this year, the district joined forces with the Research Business Development Center where students, teachers, parents and county employers were asked various questions about a possible technical education in Fremont County schools.

The school district’s hope is that such a facility – whether a separate building or a part of the high school – will help youth focus on a career following high school graduation while also helping employers find workers in what’s currently a very tight labor market.

While school officials realize that the tight labor market may not remain as it is now, the hope is that, regardless, students graduating from Fremont County high schools will graduate with marketable skills.

To begin with, the school board received 572 responses from 260 students, 93 stakeholders, 186 parents and 118 community members. Overall, 12.8 percent of respondents thought agriculture was one of the best industries to pursue. That was followed by 9.6 percent who thought health care would be a good career. Work as an educator came in at 9.2 percent while construction received 8.3 percent. Other areas of interest included information technology, energy and computers.

The survey also asked, “Which programs would have the greatest economic impact?” Of those surveyed, 26.7 percent said health care would prove positive while 19.9 percent said mechanical careers would boost the economy. Another 18.1 percent believed that working in the electrical field would help the community. In addition, 11 percent of respondents believed that industrial careers would have an economic impact. Nuclear operations received 9.8 percent while another nine percent believed that jobs in instrumentation would benefit the community. Just over three percent stated “other.” Of the students questioned, 9.6 percent said healthcare would prove beneficial.

The survey asked participants what types of education/training they believed students should receive. Of those responding, 28.1 percent suggested they earn a technical license while 36.3 percent suggested youth should receive “direct work training and certification courses.” Another 32.8 percent proposed that students earn college credits. The remaining 2.9 percent opted for “other” certification.

Those taking the survey were asked if they believed a technical/vocational high school would prove beneficial in the county. Of those asked, 78.7 percent said it would while 14.9 said it would “somewhat” help. Another 6.4 percent said “no.”

In addition, the survey asked if online courses were valuable. Of those answering, 65.4 percent said they were while 20 percent said they were “somewhat” helpful. Another 14.6 said “No.” In the parents’ category, parents voted at just over 80 percent in favor of online course.

“Parents were most in favor. Students were most opposed at 22 percent,” the survey reported.

The survey also asked respondents if they were in favor of consolidating North and South Fremont High Schools. Answers were split nearly half and half with 48 percent agreeing while 40 percent said “no.” Another 12 percent answered “other.”

Another survey question was “Do you believe job training for high school students will have a positive economic impact?” Just over 90 percent replied in the affirmative while 4.2 percent said “no” and another 5.1 percent answered “other.”

The survey also asked its stakeholders if they felt it was important to invest in students’ educations. Of those answering 53 percent answered in the affirmative at 80 to 100 percent.

Stakeholders responded that they would like to see the school district implement a technical training/certification program, to develop a program to allow students to take online college classes for dual credit and to consolidate the two Fremont County High Schools.

Students were asked how many planned to attend college of which 51.8 responded they would do so. Half of those answering said they planned on attending school in Idaho with 27.2 percent enrolled at Brigham Young University-Idaho, 5.9 percent attending the College of Eastern Idaho, 7.4 percent enrolling at Boise State and 19.5 percent planning to attend Idaho State University. Another 8.9 percent of the students want to attend BYU in Provo while 8.9 are going to Utah State. Of those surveyed, 22.3 percent were still undecided.

4.4 percent of surveyed students expected to serve Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missions. Another 17.9 percent planned on working following high school graduation. Twenty-four percent said they didn’t plan any post-secondary education.

Eighty-one percent of those students surveyed were in grades nine through 12. Another 19 percent of the students were in grades six through eighth.

Of the parents surveyed, 24.1 percent had children attending North Fremont High School while 55 percent had children at South Fremont. Smaller percentages made up parents with children in the grade schools and the junior high school and included 3.1 percent from Ashton Elementary, 6.8 percent from Henry’s Fork, 6.3 percent from South Fremont Jr. High School and 3.7 from Teton Elementary School.

The majority of high school students expressed optimism about their futures following graduation. Forty percent of those students said they had the resources needed to pursue post-secondary education while another 44.4 percent said they believed they “somewhat” had those resources. Another 15.3 percent didn’t think they could pursue desired careers.

Of the ninth through 12th grades, 64 percent believed that there were career opportunities available for them in Fremont County. Another 37 percent said they “didn’t know” if there would be jobs available for them in the county.

Students were also asked about living and working in Fremont County following high school graduation. About 20 percent said they planned to stay here for the rest of their lives. Around 65 percent said they would stay if they could find good employment while about the same amount weren’t sure. About 80 percent of the students said they planned to live elsewhere. Of their parents polled, 61 percent agreed it was important for youth to remain in the community while 33.7 percent neither agreed or disagreed.

Of those surveyed, 28.1 percent said that students should have the opportunity to earn a technical license. Another 36.3 percent said that youth should “have direct work training and certification courses.” An additional 32.8 percent suggested students should have the chance to earn college credits.

A technical/vocational high school received much support in the form of 78.7 percent in favor of one while 14.9 percent were “somewhat” supportive of it. Another 6.4 percent said “no.” Students voiced support for the facility at just under 75 percent while their parents were in favor of it by over 90 percent. Stake holders and various community members were also highly supportive.

Should a technical center become a reality, the school district hopes to partner with an automotive program to provide students with certifications in cars, collision repair; light, medium to heavy trucks, truck equipment, school and transit buses and auto and truck parts. In addition, it also hopes to partner with an organization to provide its students with high tech industrial training with hopes of creating ties to major corporations.

The district is also proposing to create programs offered by ISU to enroll students into its ESTEC Program. The program offers mechanical engineering, nuclear operations technology, electrical engineering, industrial cybersecurity engineering and instrumental engineering technology.

In addition, the district noted a hoped for partnership with ISU and ESTEC/INL.

“ESTEC is seeking partnerships with local school districts to prepare students for the program. INL has interest in developing students through ESTEC as potential future employees,” the school district said.

The district reported that its overall findings via the survey were that the public is ready for increasing technical/vocational training.

“(The community is) willing to financially support improvements. Most students are seeking higher education. Support for building career pipelines from local institutions is strong,” the survey concluded.

Plans call to identify specific programs and courses to develop, to match programs and courses with actual regional/local employment demands. The district is also looking to identify relationships with regional organizations to develop, identify building/facility needs and to identify and estimate costs.

For more information on the survey, contact the school district at 208-624-2500.