Highland News Leader

Board discusses future of building trades program at Highland High School

Highland News Leader

The Highland News Leader serves readers in Highland.
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The Highland News Leader serves readers in Highland.

The newly restored building trades program at Highland High School is beginning to take shape.

The school board discussed what the program’s curriculum might look like and officially reinstated Bruce Deibert, the school’s former building and trades instructor, at its most recent meeting.

The building trades program focuses on carpentry, bricklaying, plumbing and more. The program experienced cutbacks and eventually was cut altogether during tough budgetary years, but was resurrected at a recent board meeting.

Superintendent Mike Sutton said the board needs to start discussing what the students in the program would actually be doing, beyond just learning trade skills. In a typical building trades class, students work on long-term projects, constructing buildings and practicing skills while doing so.

At a previous meeting, the board agreed to build a house, a typical project for a building trades class would be difficult to accomplish in its first year back.

Since then the board has discussed having students make improvements around campus, building storage for the district or fixing the high school’s concession stand, which was originally built by the class decades ago.

“We do need to have a conversation about what the program is going to be next year,” Sutton said.”Bruce is chomping at the bit to find out what sort of projects they’ll be doing next year.”

Most likely, the board agreed, the students would end up doing work on campus, as it would mesh best with their schedules.

Board member Rene’ Friedel said the program should have a “slow start,” so the board can gauge what the future of the program may look like based on its first year back.

“When we approved this we talked about slow steps,” Friedel said. “I think trying to keep them on campus until we get an idea of how much interest there is, building some momentum and come up with a strategy for the next couple of years.”

Board member Aaron Schwartz said he’d like to sit down with Deibert to figure out what he’d like to accomplish in the programs first year back, which Sutton said he could arrange.

The board also discussed how the block scheduling of the class would work. Sutton said the class possibly could be double or triple blocked, with a morning and afternoon session.

Hiring two building trades instructors was just two of several positions the school board debated adding back to the budget at meetings late last year and early this year. In addition to building trades, a family and consumer science teacher job and additional jobs in the information technology department of the district also were added to the budget.

However, despite a large demand from the district’s art teachers and Highland’s art community, the board denied adding an additional art position that would have given students more time in art class and more options in what type of art classes they take.

Other Board Action

  • The school board accepted the resignation of Chief Educational Technology Officer Matt Fredericksen. Board President Jim Gallatin noted it will be a “huge loss” to the district.

  • A decrease in activity fees was approved that will bring Highland’s fees closer to other are schools. Currently, its the highest in the area.

  • The district entered a new contract with its current food provider, Ceres. The company was the lowest bidder out of two with $1.3 million.

  • Several bids were accepted for new roofing and flooring and the removal of asbestos at Highland Elementary. A bid for new auditorium seating at the school’s gym also was accepted.

The school board will meet again Monday, April 15, at 6 p.m. in the District Administrative Center.

Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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