Lack of space pushes Butler Tech to turn away hundreds of students

The Butler Tech West Chester Campus Bioscience Center in Butler County is seen here. Butler Tech has become a popular choice for education and is having to reject students due to limited classroom space. FILE

Combined ShapeCaption
The Butler Tech West Chester Campus Bioscience Center in Butler County is seen here. Butler Tech has become a popular choice for education and is having to reject students due to limited classroom space. FILE

Already one of Ohio’s largest county-wide career schools, Butler Tech needs to keep growing and fast, officials said Monday.

The career school system, which serves all Butler County high schools — and hundreds of adult-aged students — in career learning, training and professional certification, had to turn away about 1,000 of 2,500 high school applicants for next school year.

There’s just not enough classroom space, said Jon Graft, superintendent of Butler Tech.

And it’s a problem that is getting worse in recent years, said Graft, especially the last three years.

“We need more buildings,” he said citing Butler Tech’s inability to enroll about 1,000 high school student applicants for the 2022-2023 school year.

ExploreButler Tech officials share innovations with national career education peers

Some of those students will be able to take Butler Tech classes in satellite learning programs offered at each of the county’s 10 public school districts and their high schools, but for some teens, their desire to learn in some of the dozens of programs offered on Butler Tech’s seven campuses may have to wait until next school year or even later when they enroll as an adult student.

Through its satellite, local campus programs, Butler Tech next school year will serve more than 18,000 total high school students, including about 700 adult learners.

The career school is frequently touted by area business and political leaders as an essential pipeline for new, trained workers for the region’s booming industries battling labor shortages.

“We need to be able to grow at the pace in which the businesses are asking us to grow,” said Graft.

“Right now, we are not able to meet that pace.”

But possible funding help is on the horizon for some programs, he said.

Earlier this month, Butler Tech announced a partnership with Duke Energy in expanding its Monroe campus with a Utility Pipeline Installer program slated to launch in the fall of 2022 with an initial enrollment of about two dozen students.

“The Duke Energy Foundation is leading the charge in support of the program with $145,000 in grants, including scholarship funding of $5,000 each to the first nine officially registered students, with additional partners following suit,” said A.J. Huff, spokeswoman for Butler Tech.

And pending now is Butler Tech’s application for $24 million in America Rescue Plan Act pandemic relief funding made available through Butler County officials.

If approved it could mean new career learning programs in a partnership expansion with Miami University Hamilton’s campus and a new aviation career program hangar at the Middletown Airport. The two projects, if funded, would create an estimated 600-plus classroom spaces for high school students when completed.

Currently work is proceeding on a $12.5 million expansion of Natural Science Center learning facility expanding learning spaces from 6,000 square-feet to 25,000 square feet when the additional facility opens in December.

ExploreVideo & story: New Butler Tech classrooms being built on converted farm campus

And planning for an expanded partnership involving another expansion of the school’s Bioscience Center in West Chester Twp. is making progress, said Graft, which could see an additional 45,000 square feet of learning space added with help of Cincinnati State College.

Despite lagging in enrollment capacity expansion, Graft remains optimistic the career school will eventually catch up to local employers’ labor needs.

“We will continue to grow and we will continue to find creative ways of adding programs at a faster pace,” Graft said.

About the Author