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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 best approach for the students is to keep the automotive program at Stafford High; the question is how to do so. The new Stafford High is based on the layout of Mountain View and Colonial Forge high schools, neither of which has an automotive lab. We suggested putting a four-bay auto lab in a separate steel-framed building about 240 feet off the southwest corner of the main building. It would easily fit within the resource-protection area and the only loss would be 20-25 parking spaces in the faculty parking lot. One of our teachers obtained a quote of just under $265,000 to build such a facility on a concrete slab; it would cost extra to finish the interior but much less than the $3.5 million to $4 million stated at a School Board work session.
The students of Stafford's BOOTS program, who design and build a house each year, may also help with the finishing of the building and further defray the cost. The equipment, tools, teachers, and students are already on hand--we just need walls to accommodate them.
GOING, GOING, GONE?
During the Oct. 9 Board meeting, the chairperson stated that the automotive program "is not going away or being removed from the students' grasp" because of the Germanna option, yet that is exactly what is happening. The program would leave Stafford High for an offsite location that requires busing. The site would have curtailed space and instructors for just half of the 112 students now enrolled: How could it not be "beyond the grasp" of the 50-60 students who could no longer enroll in the program due to those constraints? Will the expenditure of providing a building trump the need to continue and expand access to this successful and growing program?
Our School Board and Board of Supervisors were elected to serve the people of this county, but they will not know how to do so without direction from the residents. To concerned supporters of the Stafford High automotive program, please consider coming to a School Board meeting or supervisors' meeting and voicing your support. Call or email your School Board member and supervisor to let them know your position so that the next Stafford High School will indeed be better in at least one aspect: an in-house auto-service program.
Robert Jett is a drafting teacher at Stafford High School and a member of the Stafford County Vocational Education Foundation.