The Board of Education Curriculum Committee decided to have the school’s architect draw up plans for the proposed high school renovation project that would include a scaled-back classroom for automotive instruction at its special meeting Tuesday night. However by keeping the course in the plans, it could increase the overall space and cost of the project.
In the original educational specifications, power management or auto body shop was kept as a possible high school course, but it had been scaled back. However, following discussion at their first meeting , board members realized that the course was not giving students a certification in automotive mechanics and most of the equipment was outdated. So they decided to eliminate it.
Following a heated discussion on Feb. 16, board members called a special meeting Tuesday night because some felt the possible elimination of a course should be discussed in committee and not during a working session of the educational specifications.
On Tuesday, board member René “Skip” Rivard opened the meeting by discussing how it was important for the high school to offer hands-on courses directed at students who may not go to college, but maybe toward an apprenticeship.
“I want to make sure we are doing the right thing,” he said. “Do we want students leaving for another program?”
Board member Frank K. Morse said he wanted course options for every student, but wanted more “computer hands-on courses" such as video production and robotics.
“These have been the areas that we have discussed and always wanted to expand in the curriculum and technology area,” he said. Morse added that programming and computer repair were courses that every kid will need in the future.
Some board members have previously stated that schools throughout the state were eliminating automotive courses, however John Bedlack did not feel the same way.
“We want to be very careful,” he said about the automotive instruction course. “The trend is not to get rid of it.”
Bedlack said several schools in the area such as Glastonbury and Berlin had kept automotive instruction in their technology education curriculum. However, most of the programs had reduced the space of the classroom while still offering advanced courses in automotive instruction.
”If we are going to compare ourselves with these schools with test scores, we ought to look at their programs,” he said. “There is a reason why they are offering it.”
Ronald Robbins of the Board of Education felt the course should be modernized, but scaled back. He said students should be able to perform rudimentary automotive repair while performing some modern operations such as automobile diagnostics and small engine repair. He added that the school could cut costs by leaving some of the current equipment such as the lift in place, while bringing in a few modern items.
By the end of the meeting, the committee had not come to a final conclusion on whether to keep or eliminate the automotive course.
"We are not removing anything right now," said Board of Education Chairwoman Raffaella Coler. "It does not seem we have a consensus on whether power mechanics should remain."
However, they decided to have Michael A. Sorano, the project's architect, draw up plans with a scaled-back power management course in them. By keeping power management in the plans and more importantly the equipment used in that course, the space and cost of the project is expected to increase. Because there is little wiggle room in the project, the town would not be reimbursed from the state for any additions to the educational specifications.
The renovation of the high school is expected to cost about $40 million , according to earlier reports. The state is expected to reimburse the town about $25 million for the renovation, according to those previous reports.
In the proposed educational specifications, the technology education wing would be on the bottom floor of the high school and combined with the family consumer science and business classrooms . In the proposed plan, there would be three 2,000-square-foot lab-style classrooms for technology education, which would be used for power management, robotics, and materials processing or wood/metal shop. There would be three technology classrooms for graphics, video production and computer-aided drawing/engineering.
The bottom floor would also house at least one family consumer family classroom/lab and three business education classrooms while eliminating the metal shop and printing room.
"We should be able to cover all this curriculum,” Sorano said.
The Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Board of Education training/conference room at the Rocky Hill Town Hall, followed by a joint meeting of the curriculum and facilities committees at 7:30 p.m. on the educational specifications.