Students at El Camino High School in South San Francisco work in auto shop class.
Students at El Camino High School won’t have the option of taking auto shop this coming year and community members believe this will mean the loss of a very hands-on project-based learning program.
In the last couple of weeks, students and teachers have found out about the decision to cut the program, which is a result of the construction of a new science wing at the South San Francisco school, according to the district. The district is looking to transform the school into a science and technology hub that can help prepare students for the future workforce opportunities in the Bay Area, it says. South San Francisco High School will still be offering Auto 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 during the 2014-15 school year. Still, some teachers and students see this as a bad move.
Jim Cresta has been the automotive teacher at El Camino High School for more than 45 years and was originally told by the school’s principal two months ago that the program could get eliminated. Cresta was told he may be needed to fill a health teacher position since he is the only remaining teacher on staff with a health science credential.
“If we lose auto, then we won’t have any industrial tech classes,” he said. “There’s support for it from everyone I’ve talked to.”
This isn’t the first time the program has almost been nixed. About four years ago, Cresta said a principal attempted to get rid of auto at El Camino, but public outcry prevented the cancellation.
Cresta notes the classes are important for learning basic math and science, organizational skills, the proper use and care of tools, safety and social skills.
Many administrators, although well-meaning, are out of touch with the needs of the total school population, he said. For example, at El Camino, only about 30 percent of seniors attend a four-year university, but all classes center around A-G requirements for admission to a four-year university, he said. Taking college-credited auto classes in high school can help students who are going on to community college get an edge over other students, putting them on a priority list for auto classes in college, he said.
Former district students are also speaking out about the cut, including Pete Rio, a 1996 graduate of South San Francisco High School who took an auto class there. He notes there’s lots of work opportunities associated with gaining auto skills including military work.
“Auto shop is very valuable to the students because it teaches students self-reliance, importance of vehicle maintenance and allows for them to understand how a vehicle works,” he said. “It teaches students the importance of starting a project and seeing a project through. … Everybody is driving them (cars) — it’s the most frequently used piece of machinery in the U.S.”
Meanwhile, the district says auto programs are valued at its high schools.
“Any of our high school students are welcome to participate in the program at Skyline College or South San Francisco High School,” Superintendent Alejandro Hogan said in a prepared statement. … Our students should not only be able to contribute to the technology sector, they should be leading its next generation. And that is the district’s current focus for El Camino High School.”
Still, the district continues to support a number of programs and electives that, including vocational, arts, and music programs, seek to broaden students’ understanding of the world around them, he said.
“Those electives provide our students a diverse experience that will support their lifelong academic and personal success,” Hogan said. “The district will continue to invest resources into these valuable programs.”
Another teacher, who asked not to be named, said she is unhappy with the class being dropped and has heard the same from parents.
“Teachers in general have mentioned we would like to have vocational classes for our students based on students in district,” she said. “Without the class, a lot of doors are being closed for them at Skyline [College].”
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