Limestone County’s Workforce is Leading the Pack
Excellent schools serve students, the community and the economy.
Residents in Athens and Limestone County have plenty of options for attaining a well-rounded education and preparing to enter the workforce. In addition to public school systems, parents can choose to send their children to parochial schools, such as Lindsay Lane Christian Academy or Athens Bible School, which recently completed a new $11 million campus that will allow the school to double its enrollment.
Athens Public Schools are also expanding. The newest facility, Athens High School, features 72 classrooms, state-of-the-art science and engineering labs, career and technical labs/classrooms, and an 850-seat auditorium as part of the $11 million upgrade.
“Our school system is consistently ranked one of the best districts in the state of Alabama because our community insists on nothing less, supporting our innovative efforts to ensure our students graduate with the skills they need to compete and succeed in college, career and life,â€ says Athens City Schools Superintendent Dr. Trey Holladay. “We are proud that our system is decidedly different by design. We intentionally cultivate a culture of innovation that invites new approaches to public education.”
Outside of Athens, Limestone County Schools serve the rest of the population here. About 8,700 students attend Limestone County Schools, with six schools serving students in grades six through 12, seven elementary schools serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade, one elementary school for students in third through fifth grade, one primary school for kindergarten through second grade, one Career Technical Center, one online school (Alabama Connections Academy) and the Limestone County Alternative School.
Those pursuing postsecondary education have two fine options right in their own backyard. Calhoun Community College – the largest community college in the state – offers 49 associate degree options and 52 certificate programs.
The latest program offered at Calhoun is the new Alliance for Machining Professionals (AMP). Students in the new AMP program will spend two days a week in classrooms and the rest of the time will be obtaining on-the-job training at a manufacturing facility, where each student will be working – and earning a paycheck. Students will receive an associate degree in applied science after completing this two-year program, and it is the intention that the student will be able to transition to a full-time position at the company where they had been working.
“With a huge industry gap and desperate need to fill hundreds of open positions for machinists, Calhoun administrators and industry partners collaborated to create AMP,â€ says Calhoun Dean for Technologies John Holley.
Calhoun awards around 220 associate degrees in advanced manufacturing each year, making it No. 1 in the nation for awarding advanced manufacturing degrees. The top ranking comes from Emsi’s list of community colleges, technical colleges and universities across the country that offer such programs.
Another local option for higher education is Athens State University (ASU). For the past 200 years, ASU has had a strong connection to the local community. Dr. Philip Way, the university’s new president, says his vision for the school is that it will be an anchor institution for the region.
“It will benefit the community through economic development activities, helping enhance pre-K-12 education, providing community service and strengthening the arts and cultural fabric of the region,â€ Way says.
In return, the community will connect to the university by creating internships and other learning opportunities for students and eventually hiring those graduates.
“In other words, there will be a reciprocal relationship,â€ he says.
ASU also has a reciprocal relationship with Calhoun. Way says more than 30% of ASU students get their start at Calhoun. Recently, Calhoun and ASU launched a new dual-degree program. Students in Calhoun’s child development program will transfer courses to ASU at the end of approximately 40 hours. The remaining courses will be reverse-transferred fromASU back to Calhoun, allowing students to graduate with two college degrees, one from Calhoun and one from ASU.
If you’d like to learn more about the Athens/Limestone County area, check out the latest edition of Livability Athens/Limestone County, AL.