The new dynamometer sat in its crate outside the auto shop, waiting to be hoisted into a concrete pit. Used to measure an engine's power, the huge apparatus was one of two being installed in the new classroom at Nogales High School.

The Rowland Unified school had stripped its old auto shop down to the bare frame. Now it is rebuilding the three-bay garage into a state-of-art facility to teach students the latest in auto repair.

It was sort of like going from a 1960 Ford Falcon to a 2009 Toyota Prius. Let's call it a hybrid classroom.

The high school in La Puente used the old building, but it rebuilt it into a great new learning facility.

"I keep pinching myself, I can't believe this happening,"

Construction crews rush to complete work on new utilities in time for the the new school year at Nogales High School. (Sarah Reingewirtz / Staff Photographer)
teacher Mike McCarty said excitedly.

McCarty was busy roaming the new facility as workers rushed to ready it for the opening of school on Aug. 24. Lots remained to be done, but all the heavy construction had been completed.

"This shows the district's commitment to bringing back vocational education. Many students can find a good career with a technical education," McCarty noted.

The auto shop instructor pointed out the two new car lifts that will be used to raise vehicles for students to work on.

He also led visitors to a separate room where another dynamometer would measure engine outputs while they were unmounted.

The renovated classroom will bring the Rowland students into the forefront of

modern automotive technology. It will help them get good-paying jobs.

McCarty said he averages 40 students in each of his five daily classes. The Nogales teacher seemed invigorated by the new classroom.

"I'm really excited because now we'll have a state-of-the-art facility that can teach auto mechanics at a college level," McCarty explained.

The district was able to afford the new facility with its bond money and a matching grant from the state through the Career Technical Education Facilities Program.

The program provides funding to qualifying school districts to construct new facilities or remodel existing facilities to integrate Career Technical Education into high schools.

Nogales Principal Nancy Padilla was glad her school was one selected for a grant.

"We have many career pathways for our students to follow and this will help the students pursuing a technical career," Padilla said.

Meanwhile, other workcrews were rushing to finish the installation of new utilities at the local high schools. Open trenches branched out throughout the sprawling campus, carrying new water, gas and sewer lines.

"This is one of the first phases in the renovation of the schools in Rowland Unified," said Khary Knowles, program manager for Erickson-Hall Construction Company.

Knowles said the old utilities had to be replaced after many years of use.

"Some of the classrooms were getting brown water. Now everyone will have fresh water," Knowles said.

While workmen scurried around filling in trenches, others laid fresh cement sidewalks for the incoming students.

The program manager said this was only the beginning of the two-year project to renovate our local schools.

"We did a site assessment at all the campuses, so we know what needs to be done," Knowles said.

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