by ALEXANDRA RETTER
A move that would lift the industrial arts graduation requirement in the Lewiston-Altura School District has drawn the ire of critics on the Winona Workforce Board who raised concerns about potential impacts on students who might be drawn to skilled trades if introduced to them in high school.
The Lewiston-Altura Systems Accountability Committee, which consists of administrators, business representatives, higher education representatives, parents and teachers, decided to merge three individual graduation requirements of half a credit each in agricultural education, business education and industrial technology into a one-and-a-half credit requirement in two of the three fields, according to a written response from Jennifer Backer-Johnson, superintendent of the Lewiston-Altura School District, and Cory Hanson, high school principal for Lewiston-Altura School District. The two crafted the statement in response to a letter to the editor from the workforce board criticizing the change.
“The decision will allow students who are not focused on a career in industrial tech, business or agriculture to potentially take an additional half credit to one credit of the required 30 graduation credits to focus on their chosen career pathway,” the response reads. “Some students will maintain three courses in the career and technical education field based upon course design and credit breakdown by course. This decision will neither limit any student’s ability to explore this career area nor will it decrease the number of courses offered to students interested in this pathway.”
In the letter to the editor from Winona Workforce Board Chairman Jim Vrchota, past chair and Lewiston business owner Craig Porter and Executive Director Laura Pettersen, they said they feel Lewiston-Altura should extend its industrial arts options. “Industrial arts is a fundamental tool to help children learn how things in the world fit together and work,” they wrote. “Barring their ultimate career choice, what student will not grow up to own a car, a lawnmower, need to repair a broken railing, or fix a worn plumbing pipe?”
Pettersen told the Post that the board wishes for all students to be able to experience industrial arts education. “I think the challenge the board sees with the optional choice for industrial arts is students who may already identify those skills or options as something they’re interested in may be the primary audience, whereas a requirement has students take a course that they may not have recognized that they may learn from without that sort of push,” Pettersen said.
Students in seventh and eighth grade at Lewiston-Altura High School are able to delve into career and technical education areas and other electives, according to the district’s statement. The career and technical education options have expanded this school year, they said, and students in seventh and eighth grade now have opportunities in agricultural education, business education and industrial education. These offerings have not been available previously, according to the response.
The state of Minnesota does not require career and technical education for graduation, the response said. Schools near Lewiston-Altura High School do not require two or more areas of career and technical education, they wrote. The response notes that Winona has a one-credit requirement, Stewartville has no requirement, Rochester has no requirement, St. Charles has a half-credit computers requirement, and Rushford has a half-credit computers requirement.
Lewiston-Altura High School recently received a grant to extend the Winona REACH program there, according to the district’s statement, and the district will collaborate with groups such as the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce to bolster manufacturing course offerings for students.