LEWISTON – Lewiston High School will trim its industrial arts program, which focuses on woodworking and small engine repair, in favor of an expanded fine arts program.

The School Committee agreed last week to hire an additional art teacher. It also agreed to cut in half the space reserved for industrial arts in the school’s G wing and use that space to create a new arts and fitness center.

Four rooms near the gym locker rooms will be reserved for ceramics, drawing and painting, photography and art foundations. Currently, the arts program operates out of three rooms.

One large area will be dedicated to weight training and aerobics. Currently, the school offers only weight training and runs it from one small room.

Because the 1,300-student school will shift equipment within the current layout, it will not need to build an addition.

“It’s reusing space within the budget allocations we have,” said Superintendent Leon Levesque.

Reducing industrial arts

As it reduces the space dedicated to industrial arts, the school will also reduce the industrial arts program. Currently, the program teaches woodworking and small engine repair over several semesters. In the future, it will allow the school’s youngest students to explore the subjects but will require students to enroll in the Lewiston Regional Technical Center on the Lewiston High campus if they want to pursue such a program full time.

“We plan to use it as more of a feeder system,” Levesque said.

Industrial arts enrollment has dwindled over the last several years as LRTC has boosted its programs and as student interest in basic woodworking and engine repair has diminished. At the same time, interest in the fine arts has grown.

If the school did not expand its fine arts program, Levesque said, it would have to turn away 250 students who had hoped to sign up for a fall class.

“Fine arts is a high school graduation requirement and we’re having many students who want to have additional programs in the arts,” Levesque said.

A new art teacher will be hired this summer. The additional art classes will be available when students return to school in the fall.

Students who are now enrolled in industrial arts will be allowed to continue with it.

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