Harlem Leaders Drop Building Trades Class

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MACHESNEY PARK (WIFR) -- A popular program that's taught hundreds of Harlem High School students about what it takes to build a house will not be offered next school year.

The Harlem School Board decided Monday to drop the class. District leaders say one of the biggest reasons they cut the vocational education construction class is because there's fewer jobs in the construction industry. They also say there’s been a 33% drop in enrollment in the last two years, and that the program is an operational loss for the district. Without the class, Harlem leaders expect to save $95,000 a year.

Several community members spoke before the board Monday night in the hopes of saving the class. It's been offered at the high school for more than 40 years. In the course, students do all the work it takes to build a home from framing walls to running electrical and plumbing lines. Habitat for Humanity has partnered with the district to pass along these skills to students like in the video you see here. That partnership will continue.

“We also have to be very responsible for making sure that what we're training and what we are teaching our students is going to have an ultimate job at the end, and with the current housing market, we're preparing students for something that just isn’t there," says Harlem School Superintendent Dr. Julie Morris.

“It was good, it was hands on, and they actually got their hands dirty. They used tape measures and squares. They're not getting that anywhere any more. This is one of the last programs that’s providing any of this experience for kids," says Dana Caldwell. He taught the vocational education construction class in the early 2000s.

This class was on the chopping block in 2012 but the district kept it because they had one final lot to build on. That final home will be finished in the next few months.

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