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Cedar Rapids Kennedy Parents Worry About Industrial Tech Programs

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa A group of parents is worried some industrial technology programs are on their way out at Kennedy High School.

The Cedar Rapids high school is planning to reconfigure some of its classrooms in the southern end of the building currently used for industrial technology to make more space for the growing Project Lead the Way engineering classes as well as a room for a health, conditioning and personal fitness class.

There are no current plans to eliminate any programs, according to Mary Wilcynski, Kennedy High School principal, but that hasn't stopped some parents' concerns that the changes don't leave enough space for the school's welding, automotive and electric car programs.

Donna Thomas is one of the parents helping to organize industrial technology supporters. Her older daughter, now graduated, was involved in the electric car program all four years at Kennedy an experience that gave her confidence and helped focus her career ambitions, said Thomas. She hopes her younger daughter, an incoming freshman, will be able to participate in electric car as well.

But after talking with teachers, students and other parents, Thomas doubts the reconfiguration will leave the space they need to operate.

"The kids don't believe that and the teachers don't believe that and we need to listen to the people actually doing the work," she said.

Plans are not finalized and Wilcynski said she is listening to parent and staff concerns regarding the changes. She is hoping the auto shop class will be able to teach two sections at once and is actively discussing alternative setups with teachers and students for the welding and electric car programs.

There also is the possibility for students to take these classes through Kirkwood Community College, which plans to build regional education centers in Linn, Johnson and Washington counties and purchased a building from Transamerica at 1 Martha's Way in Hiawatha in December 2011 for this purpose. Thomas is concerned moving the classes off-campus will diminish their popularity among students.

That popularity already is on the decline in some areas, as there are fewer than ten students signed up for the auto tech classes, while Project Lead the Way courses have more than 65 students registered for next year and need more room.

"We have to look at our pre-registration numbers and make some decisions. It's difficult to continue to dedicate a particular teacher and space for just 5 kids," said Wilcynski.

Thomas and other concerned parents are meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, 2012 in the Lagoon Pavilion at Noelridge Park to further discuss what they can do to ensure a future for these programs at Kennedy. Thomas said Wilcynski is invited and hopes she will be able to attend.

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