MEXICO — Students are learning new technology and the latest skills in at least two courses at Region 9 School of Applied Technology, instructors told the school board Wednesday night.

Lloyd Williams, building construction instructor, and Eddie Naples, truck driving instructor, presented reports. Williams, who has taught building trades for nearly 30 years, said sometimes there’s a stigma about taking such courses, but there are an abundance of skills used that benefit many facets of students’ lives.

He has five students each in the first- and second-year carpentry program. He said the biggest reason for declining enrollment is students sometimes have difficulty fitting in vocational courses with the required academic ones.

Another reason is declining enrollment at the three sending high schools in Bethel, Dixfield and Rumford.

But those taking construction courses are learning the latest procedures in framing, national certification requirements and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, Williams said.

He said his students have built dugouts at Dirigo High School and many sheds.

A new electrical component will be added to the construction course later this year and, a few weeks ago, personnel from the Maine School of Masonry taught students the basics of that craft.

The difficulty of fitting vocational courses into academic schedules may be relieved when all public schools begin working toward standards-based diplomas. That will require students to meet certain academic standards rather than complete a specific number of courses.

“That would seem to make things better,” SAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy told the board.

Region 9 Director Brenda Gammon said requirements for standards-based diplomas, which are due to begin with next year’s ninth-grade classes, will be worked on by vocational and academic instructors.

Naples said he usually teaches 25 to 30 high school students each year, as well as dozens more adult students in truck and bus driving. He is looking into teaching heavy equipment operation in the future, as well as installing computers on training vehicles. He said anyone who takes a driving test must now do it on computer rather than in writing.

Region 9 also offers truck driving classes to several Foster Technology Center students in Farmington and Leavitt Area High School students in Turner, he said.

The board will tour Region 9 School of Applied Technology during the day Wednesday, Feb. 5, before their regular meeting that evening.


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