Removing walls, revamping spaces and new equipment were among the changes Hays High School’s career and technical education teachers told USD 489 school board members need to be made to accommodate growing enrollment in those classes.
Board members, administration and staff, and candidates for school board toured the high school during Monday night’s school board work study session.
CTE includes what used to be known as vocational education classes but also encompasses such areas as engineering, business, arts and health sciences. Nationwide, more than 8 million high school students took at least one CTE course in 2016-17, according to Education Week.
At Hays High, CTE includes nine clusters, or groupings of occupational areas based on common skills: arts, audio/visual technology and communication; information technology; marketing; finance; agriculture, food and natural resources; hospitality and tourism; human services; architecture and construction; and manufacturing. Each cluster has a career pathway teaching the skills and knowledge for those areas.
“When you talk about CTE, you talk about what the state is looking for. They’re looking for high demand, high tech, high wage,” technology studies instructor Chris Dinkel said.
From 2017-18 to 2018-19, enrollment in Hays High’s CTE classes grew 42%. Teachers told the board Monday they have had to turn away students from some classes, and in others, there is not enough equipment for the students they do have.
The CTE classrooms are mostly in the section of the high school built during the last bond construction in the 1990s. As the tour progressed through the area, Dinkel took the lead in describing how restructuring some of the classrooms could lead to better use of the spaces.
His woodshop, for example, does not have a computer numerical control machine. With a CNC, wood projects like cabinets are completely processed — cutting, sanding, staining and drying are all done by machine with the pieces moving on conveyer belts.
“What does CNC do for us here? This is what many shops are using,” he said. “Our kids aren’t seeing that."
A CNC would take space on the floor of the shop students currently use to store their projects. With some work, a space under a loft in the shop could be used as storage instead, Dinkel said.
Art classes are among the most popular in the CTE cluster, and that creates some scheduling and safety issues, teachers said.
Art teacher Heath Meder said Hays High is fortunate to be able to offer students a jewelry making class.
“We’re one of the only high schools I know of that does a lot of the actual silver and lost-wax casting,” he said.
“The students learn doing formulations for wax-to-metal calculations, so we’re doing math," he said. "The part I love is that there’s a good deal of students that otherwise wouldn’t enter the shop classes and never touch power tools, drill presses, buffers, things like that.
“I don’t know if they’ll become professional jewelers, but I do know they’ll use the skills from here."
Sixty students expressed interest in the class, but because of the classroom size and safety concerns, it has to be limited to about 20, Meder said. Classroom tables are located very close to the equipment.
“We’re running into safety issues having kids operate drill presses, buffing machines, all with their classmates sitting this close,” he said.
Jennifer Younger also teaches ceramics in the same space, Dinkel noted, and that can create scheduling problems.
The drafting classroom is also in need of updating. Students use the same angled drafting tables Dinkel built 25 years ago, he said, and computers with larger monitors are a great need.
The teachers also talked about the successes in the department too, including a CNC plasma table installed in the metal shop last year. It was purchased with a $29,000 federal grant.
“They need to know CNC so they can get out in the workforce. Knowing that skill is huge. You can get a job right out of high school if you knew CNC,” metals and welding teacher Alex Ford said.
A new gas kiln built just outside one of the art rooms replaces the existing gas kiln.
“It’s as scary as it looks,” Meder said of the old kiln as the group took a peek in the small room that includes two electrical kilns.
Younger said the students learn different techniques in using each type of kiln.
Teachers also told the board the students have been able to create exceptional work with the facilities they do have. Balman pointed to the many awards from the Kansas Association of Broadcasters his students have won. Balman also teaches American government, and sometimes his students have to take class time to set up and take down video equipment to accommodate the government classes.
Dinkel also works with students in the electric car program, which has won the Power and Energy Award at Fort Hays State University for 13 years and six state championships.
Students build the electric cars in a small room that was once a photography dark room.
In Curt Vajnar’s agriculture classes, seniors can take a research class and often partner with local organizations, such as the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center or City of Hays. Projects this year include hydroponics and watering rates on fescue and buffalo grass.