Enrollment is stagnant at the East Texas Advanced Manufacturing Academy despite efforts to reach more potential students.

Jody Sanders, director of the Longview school, said there are about 30 students enrolled this year, which is about the same as the 35 in fall 2018 when the campus opened. About 25 are returning students. Officials said in June 2018 that full capacity at the school is 80 students.

“I just don’t get it,” Sanders said on why more students are not enrolled, especially since enrollment is free.

The academy educates area high school juniors and seniors for professional careers in machine operating, manufacturing and programming. The students are offered dual-credit courses in precision machining through Texas State Technical College and instrumentation and electrical technology through Kilgore College.

Sanders said he has visited public and private schools, church youth groups and other organizations in an effort to boost enrollment.

In October, he said he was working to contact other school districts outside the founding members of Longview, Pine Tree, Spring Hill and Hallsville ISDs.

The students enrolled this year are from Longview, Pine Tree, New Diana and Tatum ISDs, with Longview ISD having the most students enrolled, he said.

This past year, some students started the program as seniors, causing low reenrollment numbers this semester, Sanders said.

The second school year for the campus started Aug. 26 with a few changes.

One issue addressed was scheduling, Sanders said. Some of the districts that sent students to the campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays did not have anything for the students to do on their home campuses during that time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Sanders said those students now also can come Mondays and Wednesdays to work on their Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification, which makes them more employable.

Additionally, the school has industry representatives and human resources employees come talk to students and teach them about applying for jobs, mock interviews and other workforce skills, he said.

“There’s a lot we work on behind the scenes — it’s not just come here and get your credits,” Sanders said. “We try to treat this as a job for kids; so being on time, being present, not having your phone out, we work on those soft skills and that’s based on industry input.”

The school is open to all East Texas students, even those who are in private school or home schooled, he said. Anyone interested in attending needs to have completed algebra I and geometry.

“It provides them with an opportunity they would never have or never would have seen,” Sanders said. “It will open a lot of doors for them career-wise from the industry partners. It will allow your child to get so many steps ahead of their peers.”