When Passaic County Technical and Vocational High School opened its doors in Wayne 50 years ago, it was not so much a beginning, as a grand step towards the realization of an incredible dream. Opened in 1970, the school was originally named Passaic County Technical and Vocational High School and was the continuation of an educational journey that began in the early 20th century.
In 1917, a small band of "Silk City" businessmen agreed that Paterson should have a school to train young men to enter the textile industry, resulting in the establishment of the Paterson Vocational School. Aimed at training young boys who were at least 14 years of age or in the sixth grade and trained them for two years or until they were ready to assume a job in a factory or trade. From that time until the early 1940s, Paterson Vocational School continued to operate as a two-year school, gradually expanding its curriculum to include a wider variety of trades. During World War II, the school remained open around the clock, providing men and women with the necessary training to become machinists and draftsmen to design and construct the engines used in bombers, fighters and transport aircraft flown in the Pacific and European theaters. As such, the school was honored by the War Department for its noble contributions and service efforts.
Cognizant of the burgeoning role that technology would play in the booming postwar economy, Paterson Vocational School applied for and received approval from the New Jersey Department of Education to become a full-fledged high school in 1946. Academic subjects were added to the curriculum, as were new trades like Refrigeration, Industrial Electric and Electronics. At that point, the school was renamed Paterson Technical and Vocational High School and quickly gained the name Paterson Tech. Agriculture was offered to shared-time students attending Central High School (now Kennedy High School), with Paterson Tech renting a farm close to PCTI's present Wayne campus where students learned to raise farm animals and grow crops.
By the 1960s, the importance of vocational and technical education was becoming increasingly obvious. In 1964, Paterson Mayor Frank Graves turned over Paterson Tech to The Board of Passaic County Freeholders, thereby providing all youngsters in Passaic County access to Passaic County Technical and Vocational High School. With students flooding in from all over the county, Passaic County Tech, now reaching a student population of 500 young men and one girl, was bursting at the seams. The school's two buildings - one dating from the Civil War located at the corner of Summer and Ellison, the other a refurbished factory on Market Street - could not meet the demands. By 1965, plans were well underway to build a new school that would accommodate students for generations to come.
Armed with a Federal Grant of $3,925,000 - the largest ever awarded to that date - and research from a Citizens' Study Committee, the county chose a 59-acre tract of land which it owned in Wayne, previously the site of Camp Hope.
Ground breaking ceremonies were held in November 1966 and construction began 15 months later. On September 8, 1970, Passaic County Technical and Vocational High School - at the time, the largest technical/vocational high school in the state and third largest in the nation - opened its doors to nearly 1500 young men and women. In fifty years since, PCTI has been renamed Passaic County Technical Institute reflecting our commitment to the future. During that time, PCTI has added 3 new wings, an additional special needs building, an additional media center, new athletic center, new athletic fields, a variety of academic courses, AP courses and specialized programs, and has kept abreast of rapid technological advances and economic trends by constantly updating vocational, occupational and technical course offerings.
Notably, the opening of the state-of-the-art STEM Academy in 2018 further expanded the Wayne campus with the addition of a second high school. Opening its doors in September 2018, the STEM Academy offers three exciting career pathways: Biomedical and Life Sciences, Computer Science, and Engineering. In each comprehensive program of study, students of the STEM Academy apply essential Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic principles in project and problem-based learning activities. The newly constructed state-of-the-art facility utilizes uniquely designed settings including common collaborative learning spaces, CTE & science laboratories, open classrooms, presentation/seminar hall and small group instruction areas.
This incredible progress achieved over the course of the past fifty years is merely an opening chapter. As the demand for technical and vocational education continues to increase in the 21st century, there are always new challenges to meet and new horizons to explore. Keeping in mind the innovation and dedication of the original Paterson trailblazers over a century ago, Passaic County Technical-Vocational Schools continue to respond to the demands of industry and the global marketplace while making history one step at a time.