January 31, 2023 at 4:42 p.m.

CTE conundrum

CTE conundrum
CTE conundrum

By Carol [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

MAHS trade classes prepare students for careers

Editor’s note: The Star Post will feature each of the three components of the Feb. 14 $34,805,000 bond referendum in the Jan. 18, 25 and Feb. 1 issues – Restore and Rebuild Our Aging Community Spaces $18,435,000, Provide Safety and ADA Accessibility for All $4,305,000 and Invest in Career and Technical Education Classrooms $8,185,000. Other project pricing includes site improvements $2,175,000 and interest and issuance costs $1,705,000.

Metals students welded Jan. 26 in the Melrose Area High School metals shop/lab built in 1969. While equipment upgrades have been made, some of the equipment is close to 50 years old and the shop is not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Teacher Mike Swartz estimates between 90-120 different Melrose Area High School students come through at least one of his Career and Technical Education manufacturing and transportation trades classes during one school year.

During the 4.5 years Swartz has been at MAHS, he has taught Introduction to Metals, Metals 1, Metals 2, Metals 3, Metals Independent Studies, Automotive Maintenance, Automotive Maintenance 2, Computer Aided Drafting, Robotics (formally Mechatronics), House Wiring 1, House Wiring 2, Home Improvement, Small Engines 1, Small Engines 2 and Basic Auto Body.

That automotive shop is currently in a building disconnected from the school building.

School Superintendent Greg Winter, on Jan. 25, said when the school was opened in 1969, there was no auto tech lab.

“Around the mid-‘70s a garage was converted into an auto tech lab,” he said.

Swartz said CTE is a very broad spectrum. Winter estimated there are close to 38 class offerings.

“The State of Minnesota breaks CTE into six categories,” Swartz said Jan. 25. “Melrose has licensed teachers in sub-categories of manufacturing, transportation, construction, agriculture, food and natural resources and family and consumer sciences.”

As part of the proposed $34,805,000 bond referendum, which school district residents will vote on before or on Feb. 14, an auto lab would be built onto the current school building. A paint booth would provide a finishing room for auto body, wood and art projects.

“Accessibility and efficiency, I would say, are the main factors,” Swartz said. “Currently, our auto shop is located a few 100 feet, from door to door, from the main school building and is also shared as a van storage facility. Currently there are steps leading into the metals and woods labs, leaving the only handicap accessible access from outside the building.”

The CTE component of the proposed referendum is estimated to cost $8,185,000, with $3,505,000 for an additional new shop (also called industrial technical) space, $3,785,000 for renovation and Americans With Disabilities Act access to industrial tech classes and $805,000 for storm shelter code requirements.

Winter said currently the high school lacks space for a growing industrial tech skill curriculum, creating limited opportunities for students.

“If approved, our CTE classrooms will be remodeled to better support hands-on learning and prepare students for life after high school, including the ability to step into a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers in our community,” Winter said.

A proposed new auto tech lab would be built onto the south side of the current metals and woods shops.

“It would include two lifts and a paint booth along with other auxiliary spaces to work on things and also an attached classroom space,” Winter said.

There would also be a small engines lab located in this space.

The $3.8 million industrial tech classroom renovation and ADA access would include gutting and renovating current CTE areas. Electrical and ventilation would be upgraded, Winter said.

The state required reinforced structured storm shelter would be in the new auto tech lab.

As far as the ADA aspect, Winter said, “One of the biggest things is that a hallway would be added between the metals and woods shops, and the new auto shop would be ADA accessible for students with multiple mobility issues.”

Winter said money has been budgeted in the referendum for new equipment. The school district, over the last 53 years, has also made a “significant investment in new equipment,” while utilizing grant funding for equipment purchases.

“When you look at classroom spaces like the metals and woods shops, it’s different from a history class,” he said. “In those shops, you need welding equipment, saws, sanders, metal fabricating equipment, laser cutters.”

The school district works with local businesses to keep abreast of industry changes.

“That way our students are getting those experiences to help them go directly into the workforce or post- secondary, so they are ahead of most students,” Winter said.

The proposed CTE changes would lead to state-of-the-art shop areas, he said.

MAHS has four licensed CTE teachers and one that is an out of field permission teacher, along with other full-time and part-time CTE teachers, said Swartz, one of the licensed teachers.

With proposed upgrades and additions, staff would need to be added, Winter said.   

“Part of this project is also for staff retention. Updated facilities is a motivation for someone to stay,” he said, adding CTE teachers are among the hardest to find.

Swartz said the purpose of CTE classes is to prepare students to enter the workforce in a skilled trade or attend a technical school.

“I have been tracking my students for the last three to four years to see what they have gone on to,” he said. “We have had tremendous student placement in the skilled trades over the past several years.”

On Jan. 26, in the metals lab, Swartz prepared more students for possible careers in the trades.


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