Woodland to offer CNA, health sciences learning pathways  

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PROSPECT — The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that health care fields will add more jobs — about 1.9 million — than any other field over a 10-year period from 2018 to 2028.

To help students interested in health care careers take advantage of that expected growth, Region 16 officials have created two new “learning pathways” at Woodland Regional High School to give students a leg up when they graduate.

Starting in the fall of 2020, certified nursing assistant (CNA) and health sciences pathways will be available for students at the high school. The pathways lay out specific courses related to health sciences for students to take, and students who successfully complete the requirements will earn a “diploma of distinction” from Woodland. The requirements to complete the pathways are in addition to and inclusive of the school’s overall graduation requirements.

Woodland Principal Kurt Ogren said data collected from the high school’s internship program over the past five years showed that many students are interested in careers within the medical, dental, veterinary and nursing fields. Students also voiced their overwhelming support for the pathways in a survey last fall, he said.

“This is a pathway and program of study that aligns to the workforce needs both in the state of Connecticut and nationally,” Ogren said.

The required courses in the two pathways are similar, but the end results of the pathways are different.

The culmination of the CNA pathway will be a certified nursing assistant course taught at Woodland by an instructor from Naugatuck Valley Community College. The program also arranges for students to take the state exam, at no cost to them, to earn their CNA certification.

“Students will have the opportunity, given they complete the CNA certification, to get a job as a CNA,” said Michele Raynor, director of curriculum, instruction and assessments for Region 16.

The CNA course is a full-year class that includes classroom work and clinical experience in the field. Region 16, which oversees public schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, contracted with Naugatuck Valley Community College to run the course starting in the fall of 2020.

Raynor said the course, including the instructor and supplies, costs about $48,000. She said the district is looking to offset the cost of the program through grants.

Raynor said the CNA course will be limited to 20 students, who will be chosen through an application process, and seniors will be given priority.

The Region 16 Board of Education approved the course at its Nov. 20 meeting.

“What I like about this is that kids can come out of this job-ready. I heard that and I said, ‘This is more of the kind of things we should be doing,’” said board Chairman Robert Hiscox at the meeting.

The requirements of the CNA pathway also include a minimum of three credits in math, three credits in science — including biology, and antinomy and physiology — and half a credit each in health and safety, wellness and prevention, and psychology or sociology.

The CNA pathway is designed for students to be career-ready when they graduate. The health sciences pathways is geared more for students interested in going on to college to pursue careers in medical fields.

Ultimately, students in this pathway will complete an internship or work experience, likely in a medical office or nursing home, their senior year.

The pathway also requires students complete a minimum of four credits in math, four credits in science — including biology, chemistry, and antinomy and physiology — and half a credit each in health and safety, wellness and prevention, and psychology or sociology.

The pathways are open to all students, but students will have to go through an application process, Raynor said. Upperclassmen accepted into the pathways next year can complete required courses in the pathways concurrently with the CNA course and internship experience.

The creation of health care pathways comes after the region implemented two STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning pathways for Woodland students this school year. The computer science and engineering learning pathway is designed for students interested in aspects of STEM such as coding. The construction, manufacturing and technology learning pathway is for students more interested in the building aspect.