Throwing a wrench in the works | SierraSun.com

Throwing a wrench in the works

Alanna Lungren
Sierra Sun
Court Leve/Sierra SunStudents, teachers and graduates gather at the North Tahoe High School auto shop on Friday.
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Students from North Tahoe High School will ask the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board on Wednesday to keep the school’s auto shop open.

The high school building housing the auto shop is set to be demolished on July 10. Although a roughly 3,000-square-foot classroom for construction technology will be open for high school students on Sept. 5 of this year, the auto shop is being discontinued due to a lack of funding and any substantial automotive mechanics program, according to Dennis Williams, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District superintendent.

“Usually, the auto industry adopts [high school shop programs],” Williams said. “Without a clear, strong program well-defined, [the district] couldn’t justify the expense.”

According to Rudolph and Sletten General and Engineering Contractors, hired by the district to manage the high school construction project, either saving the portion of the building where the auto shop class exists or incorporating it into the current project with current construction escalation would cost between $4 million and $5 million.

Demolishing the building where the auto shop now sits is a part of the already planned next phase of the school’s construction project, Rudolph and Sletten’s John Home.

“[The students’] comments were good,” Home said, “but literally two years to late.”

Home said because of the increased technology of new cars, a modernized and complete auto shop would need more funding versus a construction technology shop. Additionally, they said the rationale behind creating a construction technology classroom is that students would be more able to capitalize on job opportunities with a rough framing background rather than basic auto mechanics.

However, the 30 students and parents at a forum held in the North Tahoe auto shop during lunch period Friday felt otherwise.

C.J. Ketcham, a senior, said he is planning on attending WYO Tech University in the fall to earn a degree in advanced automotive diagnostics.

“[Auto shop] is the only reason I want to become a mechanic,” Ketcham said. “It is the only thing I’ve actually stuck with.”

Auto shop offers many students a way to stay engaged, excited and physically at school. It is also a class that acts as a stepping stone into career paths, according to Carl Mielke, who graduated from North Tahoe High in 1983. After high school he said he pursued auto mechanics and eventually owned his own business. Currently, he oversees the parts department at Sierra Boat Company.

“The auto shop program is definitely a benefit, [auto mechanics] is an interest of mine that has generated a lifelong passion for automobiles,” Mielke said.

Students who were looking forward to taking auto shop also spoke out at the forum. Many agreed that being able to repair their car on their own or to take care of a problem were valuable tools.

James Laughlin, a freshman from Cedar Flat, said he was looking forward to working on his family’s ’95 Chevy Suburban in North Tahoe’s auto shop. Matt Fenley, also a freshman, said he often tags along with his dad, Kevin, an alumnus of North Tahoe and owner of local auto repair company Mobile Mechanic.

“[Auto shop] is definitely an interest,” said Fenley. “My dad works on heavy equipment, and every time I go out with him, I learn something ” it’s be cool to learn [auto mechanics] in high school.”