Our view: A well-rounded approach to education

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Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

At issue

Vocational and technical education programs

Our view

Local school districts provide worthwhile alternatives to college prepatory model of secondary education.

— A one-size-fits-all approach to public education is not the most effective way of meeting the diverse needs of students, and that's why we're encouraged by some of the steps our local school systems have taken to prepare kids for life after high school.

Vocational and technical education long have been frowned upon by those who think a four-year degree is the only, or the most likely, path to career success. The truth is, many skilled-labor jobs pay high wages while offering long-term stability. Providing that sort of vocational training also allows many of our young people to stay in the Yampa Valley long after they collect their high school diplomas.

Here in Routt County, our public school districts continue to offer a number of programs that provide valuable career training for those students more interested in entering the work force after high school than getting a post-secondary education. It's worth acknowledging those programs and the success they bring to our students and community.

In South Routt, 29-year veteran teacher and FFA sponsor Byron Dean has seen hundreds of students pass through Soroco High School's vocational agriculture program. The program offers two pathways: agriculture science and mechanics. The former includes course offerings about basic plant and animal science, ranch and farm skills and advanced coursework such as pre-veterinary medicine. The latter includes welding and vehicle/equipment maintenance. Each teaches invaluable skills, particularly for the many South Routt students who plan to continue their family ranching and farming operations or work in related fields.

Soroco also offers courses in basic carpentry, vocational business and building trades. Before he retires, Dean plans to add a horticulture program to the curriculum, buoyed by a $10,000 grant the school received to build a greenhouse.

"A lot of schools are cutting vocational programs, and we're actually expanding them," Dean said.

Hayden's technical education programs got a major boost this school year with the opening of the impressive Babson-Carpenter Career and Technical Education Center. The $1.6 million facility offers space for a variety of coursework and hands-on training, including auto mechanics, computer-aided drafting and mechanical drafting and welding. Students from other school districts are encouraged to enroll in classes there, and several college-level courses also are offered.

And then there was this week's news that Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham plans to double the enrollment capacity of the Yampa Valley School, an alternative high school based in Old Town Steamboat but available to students in all three Routt County public school districts. The school was created three years ago as part of an effort to consolidate the alternative high school programs offered by each district.

Cunningham hopes to open up 28 slots for high schoolers who are struggling in the traditional high school setting or are in danger of dropping out.

The Yampa Valley School allows for individualized, self-paced instruction for its students. Those who complete the program graduate with a high school diploma - and a statistically greater chance of succeeding in life.

There certainly are other local programs that offer career and technical training for Routt County youths, and there are countless area businesses that provide internship and job-training opportunities for students. Each of these programs plays an important role not only for our community, but also in the lives of the individual students who are given different avenues for achieving success.

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