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Partnership Could Save High School Auto Program

Posted: July 21, 2017
by Kimberly Houghton, Union Leader

MERRIMACK — School officials are considering a proposed partnership with Manchester Community College that would offer a unique automotive program for local high school students.

Without the partnership, the current automotive classes at Merrimack High School will no longer take place, in part because of the resignation of an automotive instructor.

Administrators have been working with representatives from Manchester Community College to create a proposed early college automotive program that would initially be offered to juniors and seniors.

“They would really get the full college experience,” Megan Conn, acting associate vice-president of academic affairs at Manchester Community College, told the school board this week.

Under the proposal, the district would pay about $17,000 for 10 students to participate in the program, or about $35,000 for 20 students to enroll. The first class, a maintenance and light repair course, would cover similar material typically taught throughout a two-year high school vocational program, however students would obtain a half-credit toward college and complete the work in a fraction of the time.

“This is a real shop experience that these students are getting,” said Todd Mikonis, an automotive professor at Manchester Community College.

Two classes a week will be offered from 12:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. from August to December, and students would take the bus from the high school to the college where they can take advantage of the school’s modern automotive equipment and advanced tools, said Conn.

The class, offered at a reduced tuition rate, would be paid for by the school district, according to the proposal.

“This is a very good industry, and we are really looking for people,” explained Mikonis, adding students who complete the course will be considered D-level technicians who will be able to enter the workforce in their field of interest.

Several local families toured the automotive department at Manchester Community College last week to help determine whether their children would be interested in participating in the proposed program.

Some students have already expressed interest in enrolling in the course, said Assistant Superintendent Mark McLaughlin. If the program is adopted and it is successful, there is the possibility of including sophomores, he said, stressing that idea is still premature.

Initially, however, the program is being recommended for juniors and seniors who are 16 years old, have a valid driver’s license and have a clean driving record.

“I think it sounds like a really great solution,” said Cinda Guagliumi, school board member. Guagliumi said the automotive program at the high school has been a part of the core curriculum for many years, adding the partnership with Manchester Community College seems like a promising way to continue and expand the program for students interested in the automotive field.

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