Smith Vocational to expand curriculum and air conditioning

  • Ed Buckley, who is a foreman for T.J. Conway in Springfield, points out ducts, top, that have been installed to accommodate new air conditioning at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff writer
Published: 8/22/2018 8:23:04 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School is adding an art curriculum and an AP English class to its offerings this year. However, it’s likely that students will be no less excited by the introduction of central air conditioning.

“Forever,” said Smith Vocational Superintendent Andrew Linkenhoker on how long people have been asking for air conditioning.

The air conditioning is being installed in A Building, the main office building of the campus. It contains the cafeteria, library, cosmetology program, main office, guidance services, academic classrooms and the culinary program.

“Why shouldn’t that be the reprieve for our students?” said Linkenhoker, on having the cafeteria air conditioned.

In prior years, air conditioning was limited  to the Main Office and cosmetology program, as well as the building that now contains the superintendent’s office, a portion of the IT department, the graphics and communications department, the library and the school’s restaurant.

“I think you have to prioritize limited funds,” said Linkenhoker, on why it took so long to get air conditioning.

He also noted that Smith Vocational is a regional shelter for the Red Cross, and that air conditioning can be helpful with this mission.

Linkenhoker said that the art program addition stems from a survey that was put out by the school council, asking what kinds of non-vocational programs students would like to see.

He said that overwhelmingly people wanted a foreign language, and that Spanish was offered at Smith Vocational for the first time last year. Number two, however, was art.

Linkenhoker  noted that there are practical applications of art for fields like carpentry, collision repair and cosmetology.

“Why wouldn’t you want to take some art classes?” he said.

The AP English addition is part of Smith Vocational’s efforts to provide resources to those students who wish to attend a a four-year college after graduation. It is the first AP course offered at Smith Vocational, although he said that an AP math class is being looked into for the following school year as well.

“We have a lot of students who want to come to the vocational school, yet still to go to a traditional four-year college,” said Linkenhoker.

He said a number of students are interested in learning a trade so they can work while getting a degree and not be in debt for the rest of their lives.

“They see us as a stepping stone,” said Linkenhoker.

 Linkenhoker said that the school will be enrolling just shy of 500 students this year, which he said is five to 10 more students than last year, part of which he characterized as a growing trend.

“We keep growing, which is good,” he said.

He also said that there’s been a jump in enrollment in students from Northampton for this school year, which he said typically make up 20 to 25 percent of the school’s population, despite Northampton students not having to pay tuition at Smith Vocational. Linkenhoker said that he felt that expanding the academic offerings contributed to this jump.

Linkenhoker said that overall staffing is the same, although an art teacher will be added and that there will be no staff cuts.

Asked about the biggest challenge for Smith Vocational, Linkenhoker  said it will be  continuing the school’s upward trend.

“We’re sort of a diamond in the rough,” he said.

The first day of school for students will be Wednesday, Aug. 29.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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