The best kept secret in Collier County schools isn't a secret anymore.
Tuesday, district staff outlined the College and Career Pathways Plan, which seeks to help students find a career path and expand opportunities for students over a three-year period.
The goal is to help students find out what they want to do after high school and address their needs, whether they directly enter the job market or continue onto technical schools, community colleges or universities.
The district previously developed a career education plan seven years ago. Joe Paterno, executive director of the Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board who was involved with both plans, said the goal back then was to "create the ultimate career and technical education program for Collier County."
While many of the recommendations were implemented seven years ago, including the development of the Lorenzo Walker Technical High School and the Immokalee Technical Center (iTECH), many were not due to funding, he said.
The current plan, which was developed through committees during the 2011-12 school year and was vetted through three community sessions, has more measurable goals, Paterno said. They are:
■ Increasing and expanding student interest in, exploration of and preparation to make career choices.
■ Providing clear pathways that lead to career or college readiness.
■ Developing and supporting academies in middle and high schools for all students.
■ Creating opportunities for students to get workforce and college preparation skills through technical and postsecondary courses.
■ Increasing community engagement and support of the district's career programs and students.
■ Increasing schools' abilities to fully integrate both career skills and academic standards in the curriculum, including adding career counselors and academy teachers.
■ Communicating a clear vision and developing a strong infrastructure to support schools, staff and students to achieve their goals.
The idea, Paterno said, is to guarantee students have the opportunity to find a career path no matter where they go to school.
Chief Instructional Officer Beth Thompson said the district plans to bring career education all the way down to the elementary school level by talking about different jobs and working with students to improve skills like communication and problem solving.
The plan addresses career and technical programs in the middle schools and high schools, as well as dual enrollment opportunities for high school students at Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology and iTECH. The district will also require schools wanting to add career programs to vet those ideas through a development committee, which includes 10 community members.
Still, district officials said the plan would involve costs, although the exact cost is not known. Thompson said the district is hopeful some of the costs can be offset should the district receive another Race to the Top grant, which it is applying for this fall.
Board Chairman Roy Terry also was concerned about funding and how students would balance career education with a state requirement that students pass end of course exams in certain classes like algebra.
"To carry out this plan, we might have to look at creative ways to do it, including adding another class period to the school day," he said.
School Board member Julie Sprague said the plan was "more meaningful" than the one the district had seven years ago.
"It's a good road map for us," she said. "But I am nervous about the money issue and the scheduling issue."
The board will vote to approve the plan at it's meeting, which starts at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11.