BURLINGTON COUNTY, NJ -- In homes across Burlington County, many families are focused on getting their kids through each week and eventually the school year if pandemic precautions keep kids from returning to a traditional classroom environment. But, at the Burlington County Institute of Technology (BCIT), they have welcomed students back into the swing of things at both campuses of BCIT located in Medford and Westampton more than a month ago through hybrid learning.

With most of the programs at BCIT requiring hands-on training, the school relied upon the work of the District Reopening Task Force, guidance and direction from the New Jersey Department of Health, Burlington County Department of Health and the New Jersey Department of Education. They have taken extra safety precautions but have found a way to provide the school's hallmark training. 

“BCIT in these unprecedented times under Covid-19, rallied around the dedicated support of the County Commissioners, Board of Education, administration, educators, unions and support staff in partnership with the local Department of Health, CDC, local police, fire and emergency management departments, New Jersey Department of Health and New Jersey Department of Education," said Superintendent Dr. Christopher Nagy.

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"The months of planning and preparation and successful execution of plans allowed us to open our campus schools while supporting learning within a hybrid model, social emotional support and CTE applications," Nagy added.  "Though a day-to-day process, I could not be prouder of the extraordinary human effort made by all parties including our supportive parents and community members.”

The safety protocols still allow students to participate in real-life application of skills in their career pathway with teachers who have become masters at teaching students in-person along with remote learning students in a synchronous format. Although it certainly is not the ideal model, it certainly has given birth to a plethora of innovation. 

BCIT is a career and technical school with over 30 career pathways for Burlington County students who can apply for entrance, and if accepted, they can attend free of charge. The application for admission for students who would be in ninth or tenth grade for next year's 2021-2022 school year opened October 20. Students who would be entering into the eleventh or twelfth grade must have been previously enrolled in other vocational-technical schools. 

BCIT will host “Discovery Night” for families with students in eight or ninth grade who are interested in attending the school.  Discovery Night will be held virtually on Thursday, October 22 between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm. To register for Discovery Night, go to the BCIT informational session page.

In addition to traditional classes of math, sciences and history that other high school-aged students take, BCIT students can choose from a variety of "career clusters" such as allied health, pre-engineering, performing arts, culinary art and hospitality, criminal justice, construction, automotive technology, veterinary technology, fashion merchandising and design among the almost three dozens tracks. 

Michele Hill, coordinator of strategic marketing, communications and admissions at BCIT, talked to TAPinto Bordentown about the experience of students who are looking to find their future career paths. 

"BCIT provides an educational experience for high school students who are heading into college, advanced career training or directly into the workforce." said Hill who noted that many of the career paths are "recession-proof" and "provide a foundation of employable skills." 

Hill highlighted one veterinarian technology class that has been working remotely.  Students in the class were assigned the task of create an animal food for their personal pet.  Through Google Meet-Ups, the students presented their animal food and showed their classmates the pet tasting it - regardless of if they enjoyed it or rejected the new food.  Hill said the teacher found a way to "get the whole family into it." 

“Seeing their motivation to work on their projects and their dedication to turning them in on a timely matter shows how CTE programs can motivate students to attend school more frequently and be more engaged, and therefore improve core academic skills," said Robert Crowley, an HVAC teacher at the Medford campus.

Hill noted that the school is focused on helping students “prepare and earn a living by carving out a career without the years of debt and doing what they love.” The school also works with area building and construction trades to help connect students with possible apprenticeship or training program using their skill-set.

Information videos of the BCIT school experience and programs also can be found on their website

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