We must work together to keep auto program alive

I am dismayed to hear that the superb Juneau-Douglas High School auto shop program is on the verge of disappearing. For the past 35 years, Steve Squires, and before him Bill Bradner, built the program into one of the finest high school auto programs in this state, and have done so much for students of Juneau. This is appalling.

 

Why?! How is this possible?! We are told that the University of Alaska Southeast and the Juneau School District simply cannot keep the program alive. This begs credulity, as the City and Borough of Juneau has always given its full support, and the facility is supposed to be a shared facility between UAS and JDHS. How can there be no way between these three entities to ensure this program continues?

Is this where we are in Juneau schools? That we just simply cannot provide such incredibly important programs for our students? This is a highly decorated (state championship) program that has done so much and is so important for our youth. Thirty percent of the country holds a bachelor’s degree. Career Technical Education (formerly called vocational education) and the trades have been, and will continue to be, vitally important to our society. They are essential to preparing many of our youth for the future.

Are we saying that Juneau, the capital city of Alaska, cannot offer an auto shop program? Sitka schools recently opened a superb new facility to address auto, woods and metals, and they have substantially less resources than Juneau does. They also have one in high school.

We see continued decline in student body numbers. This causes difficulty with budgeting and scheduling as our numbers have drastically shrunk down the past 20 years. This of course has contributed to this dire situation.

The auto shop program has never been made available to the students of Thunder Mountain High School, which has been so unfortunate for students. Doing so now could help to save the classes — for all.

That, however, would only be a temporary solution. Some high school sports and other programs have already merged. Merge — and keep — the auto shop program. The leadership of the school district and the university need to come together and find a way to keep the auto shop program alive. It will be a travesty to let the program die. Please do not allow this to happen!


• Kurt S. Dzinich, Jr. has lived in Juneau over 40 years and has taught at JDHS for over 20 years.


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