Eastern Suffolk BOCES is rebranding its career and technical education program as the Eastern Long Island Academy of Applied Technology, and plans to open a full-day science and engineering high school this fall at its Bellport campus, officials announced Tuesday.
The move comes nearly a year after a 25-member task force released a series of recommendations to curb declining enrollment.
ESBOCES, which served 2,339 students in the 2007-2008 school year, saw that figure dip to 1,610 in 2012-2013. The number slid to 1,593 this academic year, based on October data. With these and others initiatives, officials hope it will climb to 3,000.
The new school -- to focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM -- will expand students' opportunities to earn college credit. Administrators anticipate enrolling about 40 students the first year. Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory are among its partners.
Students, teachers, administrators and local elected officials said they hope that the career program's new name will make high schoolers look more favorably upon BOCES and help employers understand what its graduates have to offer.
Current tuition for ESBOCES programs is $12,292 per student, paid by their home district.
Carol Donohue, 36, a 1995 BOCES graduate and the first person in her family to complete college, returned to the program six years ago to teach students how to become dental assistants.
She said she is elated by the name change.
"In the past, when I said to people that I teach at BOCES, they thought BOCES was for kids . . . who did not have college potential," Donohue said. "That has changed a little bit; I don't get it as often as I used to.
"The change in the name will make people ask, 'What is the academy? What do you do there?' " she said. "That will give me an opportunity to say, 'It's for kids looking for a career.' "
Kristen Kenedy, 17 and a senior at Sachem High School East, said she hopes the new moniker will carry a more positive connotation and that employers will recognize the program's rigor.
"People will look at it for what it truly is," she said.
Kenedy became a certified nurse assistant at the end of her junior year and this year will become a licensed practical nurse. She hopes to attend Molloy College or Farmingdale State College to become a registered nurse.
Craig Saputo, 17 and a senior at Centereach High School, is studying to be a pharmacy technician and hopes to become a pharmacist.
When he first came to ESBOCES, he studied culinary arts but didn't like it. He switched after a friend spoke highly of the pharmacy program.
"I love it so far," he said, wearing a white lab coat.
His mother, Lillian Saputo, 50, said ESBOCES has given her son a chance to explore his career options at a much smaller cost than if he did the same in college. A misstep at the university level, she said, can prove costly.
"That's a house payment that you have to pay back," she said.