LA PINE — Money two local school districts will receive from the state will help revamp career and technical education courses that teach real-world skills and trades to high school students — from welding classes in La Pine to a functioning food truck in Bend.
Oregon Department of Education recently awarded Career and Technical Education grants to Bend-La Pine Schools (more than $662,000) and Jefferson County School District (more than $436,000). Each district submitted detailed plans by October of programs it would like to start or supplement with the grant money. The two districts learned their schools were among the 101 around the state that would receive some of the money earlier this month.
In Bend-La Pine Schools, the grant money will be split mostly between La Pine High School and Bend High School, with High Desert Middle School receiving a smaller portion.
At La Pine High School, the only career and technical education classes available are those in the forestry and business programs. Principal Matt Montgomery is looking forward to offering his students more, something he knows the community will rally behind.
About 2011, when enrollment declined and the high school had dropped its auto shop class, it had to cut its number of teachers, which put the ax to the wood shop class.
The expansive wood shop classroom gets used by some students in a special education life skills class, where their instructor teaches them how to make birdhouses. The auto shop space is being used only for storage.
With the state grant money, the school will repair or buy new equipment to add a construction program in the wood shop and offer a manufacturing and metals program that will include welding.
Montgomery estimates about $225,000 of the $334,000 La Pine High will receive will go toward renovating those rooms and adding equipment.
Without those spaces, adding those programs would likely have cost a lot more, Montgomery said.
“You’re looking at a couple million dollars,” he said.
Montgomery expects students will be thrilled with the new offerings, because the forestry program is quite popular. Montgomery estimates about 45 students — about 10 percent of the student population — are in the program this school year.
While not all of the kids in it end up working in forestry, they may learn skills they can apply to other jobs. On Dec. 12, when Montgomery gave a tour of the classroom spaces, forestry students were working on their welding skills.
The hope is that adding career and technical education classes will add jobs to the community. For example, a student could learn skills at La Pine High, then eventually open a construction business in town. A capstone project available to students in the new career and technical education classes will allow them to have local apprenticeships and internships.
At Bend High School, culinary teacher Molly Ziegler brainstormed with business teacher Kristen Torkelson on how they could use the money to make some of their classes work in conjunction so students could learn how to run their own restaurants.
“We’re teaming up as a whole (career and technical education) program,” Ziegler said. “Culinary is teaming up with business and also graphic arts.”
In Ziegler’s new restaurant business management class, she will teach students how to calculate the cost of meals and create a restaurant. In a digital arts class, students would learn how to create logos, menus and how to advertise. In Torkelson’s class, students would learn how to market a restaurant and sell it.
Although the courses would relate to each other, they’d be separate classes, Ziegler said.
Bend High will build and run a food truck with help from the district’s Nutrition Services Department.
Bend-La Pine Schools is giving the program an old, short school bus. The district is looking at bids from companies that would retrofit the bus to include a working kitchen.
While the plan is in its early stages, Ziegler envisions small groups of her advanced students taking turns running the food truck as their own restaurant, at tailgate gatherings before school games or at other district events. The Nutrition Services Department could transport the bus to schools at lunchtime to offer different options than school cafeterias, she said.
Because Ziegler has hoped for a food truck for a few years, she and her students have been fundraising with help from grants and the school district. The extra money they’ve raised is just shy of $100,000, she said. A teacher at Bend High who runs a food truck in his spare time will also help start the district school bus turned food truck.
One of the most exciting parts of the grant for Ziegler, though, is the remodel she will see at her school. Bend High’s kitchen was built in 1972, according to the district.
The remodel will provide new ovens, counter tops, three-compartment sinks, freezers and fridges, she said.
About $20,000 will go to one of Bend High’s feeder middle schools, High Desert, to update its classroom kitchen.
Ziegler hopes the food truck will be ready to use by early June. The new classes at Bend High will be available starting in the fall, and the kitchen remodel likely will happen beginning in summer 2019 and be ready in time for the fall 2020 school year.
In Jefferson County School District, most of the money will go to updating equipment in career and technical education classes. Madras High School brought back welding and construction programs in the 2016-17 school year after the district shut them down seven years prior because of lack of funding.
The district’s superintendent Ken Parshall said the equipment will be state-of-the art to prepare students for industry. About $100,000 will go toward summer and after-school programs related to STEM, for science, technology, engineering and math, at Jefferson County Middle School and Warm Springs K-8 Academy.
Details aren’t set, but Parshall expects they will open the program to all seventh- and eighth-graders. The goal is to offer an extended learning STEM program that gets students thinking about career and technical education courses before high school.
“The idea is getting a better runway for middle school students so they’re interested in those courses,” Parshall said.
Some money will go toward funding an 18-month position for someone who would support students, teachers and families in relation to career and technical education, as well as an “external staffer” at University of Washington who will help the district coordinate curriculum and do professional training for teachers.
The district has been working with staff at that university, which has a grant from NASA that supports work with middle school students, for about the last two years, Parshall said.
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