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Friday, 31 October 2014 00:00

BVT Celebrates Golden Anniversary

Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Upton, MA celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 25 during the school’s homecoming weekend.

The district, which is comprised of 13 towns, including Millbury and Sutton, was established in 1964. The first class of 102 students graduated in 1970.

“Since then, it’s changed a lot and it continues to,” said superintendent-director Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, who has seen the student body double in size during 22-year tenure at BVT. “In technical education, things are always moving faster and faster – it has to be fluid and it has to be flexible.”

Five decades ago, the school opened to offer technical education in eight areas – auto body, auto mechanics, carpentry, drafting, electronics, machine shop, metal fabrication, and plant maintenance. Two years later, electrical, graphic arts and plumbing programs were added, and over the years, the shops and the building itself has continued to expand.

Today, more than 1,200 students fill the halls of 300,000-square-foot high school, each pursuing an education in one of the school’s 17 areas of study.

“All the shops have changed as industry has demanded new skills,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’ve expanded shops when industry shows the need, and we might reduce some if that is what the industry indicates.”

Over the course of the school’s history, the former machining and metal fabrication programs were combined to create Manufacturing and Engineering Technology, for example.“There’s been an evolution in programming,” explained communications coordinator Andrew Morrison.

And it continues to evolve. Valley Tech is currently pursuing the establishment of an engineering technology program for high school students, and in recent years opened a post-secondary practical nursing program.All the shops were on display at their golden anniversary celebration. Students guided visitors on tours of the school for live demonstrations.

“I can’t imagine going to school somewhere else,” Emma Helstrom, a junior from Douglas said while she took the Chronicle on a tour of the school. She’s studying graphic communications but was able to try out six other areas of study before selecting her final choice. One of her favorites surprised her.

“I loved auto body,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t think I would have tried something like that if I had gone to school somewhere else.”

The school had 50 years worth of memorabilia on display at their celebratory open house, which provided a perspective on the changes that have taken place over the last five decades. The celebration concluded with a Gala.

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