Woodworking program in Hayden on chopping block | SteamboatToday.com

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Woodworking program in Hayden on chopping block

Hayden school officials consider changes to woodworking class

— A change in the Hayden Secondary Schools woodworking program could leave one teacher without a job next school year.

The Hayden School Board will consider Wednesday whether to change the program to building trades. If it approves the change, board members will consider a reduction in force, or layoff, of teacher Jeff Steinsberger.

Because Steinsberger is in his fifth year with the district, state law protects him. The law states that teachers with more than three consecutive years with the same district are nonprobationary, or have tenure, and can't be fired unless a certain condition exists.

Superintendent Mike Luppes said the School Board could approve a reduction in force for a program change. He said changing the program isn't related to less funding.

"At this point in time, I would say this proposal is not coming from a budget standpoint," Luppes said. "There will be some initial savings for next year. The purpose for this is not for a budget-savings, budget-cut type of things."

Instead, Luppes said, changing the program is something the district has wanted to do for its students for years.

"They're gaining skills, basic carpentry, but they're not getting vocational skills for professions they're going out and working in," he said. "We just feel there are a lot of other career opportunities out there that we're not exposing our kids to in our woods vocational program right now."

If the program change is approved, Luppes said, district members will take a year to design a building trades program. He said the district would like to see the new program allow students to build a house each year, on its own or with an organization such as Habitat for Humanity.

Steinsberger said he thought that was "a great idea," and has heard of other districts with similar, home-building-type programs. But he said it would be difficult with Hayden's weather, short school year and 55-minute class periods. He added that buying land and materials, selling the home and partnering with building professionals also would be challenges for the district.

"I'm not saying it can't be done," Steinsberger said. "I never said that was something I was unwilling to try, either. They just never had those conversations with me."

In the existing woodworking program, Steinsberger said, his introductory students build small furniture items, such as shelves, picture frames and even chairs and footstools. He said advanced students work on projects such as cabinets, entertainment centers and signs for local businesses. He said students recently completed saloon doors for Wolf Mountain Pizza.

Steinsberger said students in a building trades class he started completed the gazebo and deck on school district property. He said the program does what it can for the community. He said his students have built sheds and decks for Hayden residents.

If the School Board approves the program change and reduction in force, Luppes said, the district would offer woodworking next school year, but the program would be minimal.

Steinsberger, who said losing his job could mean leaving education and the Yampa Valley, hopes that doesn't happen.

"I feel like we have a lot of support in the community (for) the vocational programs, especially the woodworking and construction," he said. "The kids really enjoy the program. I hope the School Board makes the right decision."

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com