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Will the new Stafford High be a better Stafford High? By Robert Jett
Vocational education, such as Stafford High School's automotive-service-technology program, should be retained in the planning and design of the proposed replacement school.
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THE NEXT Stafford High School will not be a better Stafford High if it is built according to the current plans. A program that has been part of the school for more than 50 years is about to be eliminated--its automotive-service technology program.
For almost a year, the question about what would happen to Stafford's auto-service-tech program has not been answered. When we asked, we were told at first that there would be an agreement to share a facility that Germanna Community College was building (and completed last summer). By last summer, we discovered that there was no agreement with Germanna and that negotiations had never been initiated. We were then told that Stafford students who want to take auto tech would be bused to the programs at North Stafford or Brooke Point high schools, but they are both full.
The program would continue at the proposed area career technical education (CTE) center, but it would not be ready until at least five years after the new Stafford High opens. It became clear there was no intention of including the automotive program in the Stafford High School rebuild and it was time to point out the oversight to the School Board and general public.
Why is the program being dropped? Its enrollment has increased 44 percent since 2009--from 78 to 112 students in 2012; in fact, enrollment has never been an issue throughout its history. The approximately $750,000 of equipment and tools in the lab are all paid for, and much of it did not cost Stafford taxpayers a single penny because it was either purchased or donated through the START program. START accepts public donations of vehicles to the automotive program. These are repaired or stripped and then sold through a local dealer with the profits going to the automotive program. If it were struggling with enrollment and hemorrhaging taxpayer money, then dropping auto tech would be understandable, yet the opposite is the case.
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