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School district, CMC team up to offer ‘career’ classes

Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily/Shane Macomber Surrounded by almost finished cabinets Battle Mountain shop teacher and forman Eric Smith and students work on compleating orders for the Husky Cabinet Company.
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Dave Scott is a big believer in vocational education, and he’s looking forward to next year.

Scott, a longtime teacher at Eagle Valley High School used to run the “bio building” agriculture and aquaculture programs, courses that have been phased out over the last few years.

The bio building and its fish and hothouse plants may be gone, but vocational education – including an auto shop class – is coming back, thanks to a new agreement between the Eagle County School District and Colorado Mountain College.

Beginning next year, the community college will expand its “dual enrollment” classes that give high schoolers college credit to vocational courses, now called “career track” classes in educational jargon.

“Not everyone is cut out for college,” Scott said. Citing state figures, Scott noted that out of a typical high school freshman class, fewer than 10 percent will end up completing college and working in jobs directly related to their majors.

“I wouldn’t go to Las Vegas with those odds,” he said.

For those who want to start their work careers earlier or just get some valuable training, Scott said, job-related classes in high school can be invaluable.

In the current dual enrollment program, the school district pays for tuition for as many as four courses per student per academic year. District and college administrators said they expect the same system to be used for the vocational courses.

“We worked with CMC to come up with a good set of courses for next year,” said Gary Rito, the school district’s curriculum director . “We’re pleased with what we have; hopefully we’ll move it along.”

While CMC will run the courses, the school district will be intimately involved in how they’re run. “Everything down to the hiring of teachers will be done with the cooperation of the schools,” said Donna McGinnis, a CMC administrator.

The district had to be extra-involved in reviving the auto shop program at Eagle Valley High School. The program had been shut down for a couple of years, and bringing it back involved more than just hiring a teacher, Rito said.

To do the program right, the shop needed new tools and equipment to get the shop up to standards set by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. Money for that wasn’t in the district’s budget. To find the money, district employee Melinda Gladitch applied for a technical education grant. As a result, the district will receive $70,000 over the next two years to get the shop up and running.

With the program in place, the rest is up to the students. McGinnis said a minimum of eight students need to sign up for a course to be offered.

At the moment, most CMC students are taking academic courses, McGinnis said. But as the vocational offerings grow, she said she expects more students to take advantage of the courses.

As far as Scott is concerned, the new courses are a much-needed addition.

“This benefits students,” Scott said.

The drop in vocational offerings over the last few years is due to a lot of factors, he said, not least of which is the district’s emphasis on performance on the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, better known as the CSAPs.

“You can’t base all the value of your school on the CSAPs,” Scott said. “You need to ask if you’re putting productive citizens into the world.

“Vocational programs are what a lot of kids need. Kids realize the benefits of vocational training or a two-year degree, even if they go on to a four-year school,” he added. “Our kids will prosper because of this.”

Career track

Depending on how many students sign up, a variety of vocational courses will be offered at local high schools next year. The courses will run if at least eight students sign up. The available courses include:

Medical: Phlebotomy and nurse’s aid courses

Hospitality management

Emergency Medical Technician: two basic courses

Fire Science: Fire suppression; health and safety

Early Childhood Education

Construction: Construction basics, blueprint drafting

Computer Technology: Networking; security

Massage: Swedish massage; anatomy; physiology

Auto technology: At Eagle Valley High School only

ProStart: The business-management program will be offered at Eagle Valley High in addition to Battle Mountain High School

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