Lake Norman & Mooresville

Former warehouse now school system’s jewel

Nursing students Chelsea Arehart, left, and Allison Sears, both of Troutman, practice taking each other’s blood pressure during a recent class at the Iredell School’s Career Academy and Technical School.
Nursing students Chelsea Arehart, left, and Allison Sears, both of Troutman, practice taking each other’s blood pressure during a recent class at the Iredell School’s Career Academy and Technical School. DAVE VIESER

In 2007, Thomasville Furniture decided to close their factory and warehouse on Old Murdock Road in Troutman. At the time, local residents and officials feared the buildings would stand idle for many years.

But because of a collaboration between municipal and school officials, the facility was rebuilt into the Iredell-Statesville School system Career Academy and Technological School (CATS), where high school juniors and seniors from all over the county spend half of their school day learning various trades in an award-winning atmosphere.

“The town stood to lose a significant amount of revenue if they permitted the building to be taken off the tax rolls, but the town board opted to let the district take it over anyway,” said ISS Superintendent Brady Johnson. “Due to their forward thinking vision, we now have an award-winning state of the art career center in Troutman that gets better every year.”

ISS crews worked for nearly two years to equip the building with state-of-the-art facilities that emulate private sector amenities. What began as an auto training program has expanded into programs for culinary arts, health science/nursing, photography/digital production, public safety/firefighting and masonry.

“We’re the best kept secret in Iredell County,” said CATS Principal Larry Rogers, “but in reality we want people to know all we’re doing to prepare our high schoolers for the real world.”

That “real world” includes career training in a number of industries and occupations where jobs in the Piedmont are usually available. “We make a special effort to partner with local businesses as we develop our training programs,” said Todd Williams, director of ISS Career Technology Education. “In this manner, we can funnel our students into fields where the real-world jobs are.”

CAT’s largest program is their Automotive Technology School. In a region where the auto plays a major role in everyday life, as well as professional sports such as NASCAR, the auto curriculum has produced many graduates who have obtained jobs in related careers. The auto school component has also captured a long list of achievements and awards.

The most recent addition to the program is a diesel electric course, which includes several truck engines and cabs donated by local businesses. The vehicles are designed to provide the training that will enable students to ultimately service and repair tractor trailers.

Of all the CATS courses, the Health Science program for nursing students is by far the most competitive for admission. Out of hundreds of applicants, just 30 future nurses are selected each semester to learn all aspects of patient care so they can earn their nursing certificate.

Nursing student Allison Sears, 18, from Troutman, said the program is “everything I expected it to be, and more. The facilities we get to work with in the classroom, such as the hospital beds, help us learn the true techniques of good nursing.” Sears plans on working next year while she attends Catawba Valley Community College.

Chelsea Arehart, 17, also from Troutman, said the course, while hard at times, will “make me a much better nurse.” She also intends to work in a doctor’s office or hospital next year while attending Mitchell Community College.

Another program that has proven highly successful is the ProStart: Culinary Arts Program, designed for students seeking careers in the food service and hospitality industries. Recently, CATS was named a premier ProStart school, one of only four in the state. “The award signifies that we are a model program from which other schools can learn,” said instructor Linda Marshall. Students who receive certification in their courses can then work up to 400 hours in fields such as restaurants and grocery stores.

Dave Vieser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Dave? Email him at davidvieser@gmail.com.

Learn more:

The Iredell-Statesville School Career Academy and Technical School is at 350 Old Murdock Road, Troutman. The school serves juniors and seniors from the district’s five high schools, as well as home-schooled students who live in the district. Details: 704-978-2791.

Learn more:

The Iredell-Statesville School Career Academy and Technical School is at 350 Old Murdock Road, Troutman. The school serves juniors and seniors from the district’s five high schools, as well as home-schooled students who live in the district. Details: 704-978-2791.

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