Response to April 8 letter: Alternative use for old BHS building – Letter to the Editor

Thanks for printing another common-sense letter from Arne Saari (Alternative Use for Old BHS Building; April 8).

The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors should hire Mr. Saari as an advisor on school issues and spending. Mr. Saari served as MCPS superintendent in the days prior to bloated budgets and opulent building projects.

In addition to much better fiscal management, I have reason to believe that academic accomplishment was once much higher in the county, and I imagine that was the case during Mr. Saari’s tenure. When I look at the MCPS district report card available on the VA Department of Education website or the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings (no nationally-ranked schools from our county), I can’t help but think we can do much better.

Returning to Mr. Saari’s latest advice, why indeed wouldn’t our county consider converting the old BHS to a vocational education center especially since half the building according to Saari was designed for vocational programs?

Mike Rowe formerly of Dirty Jobs fame recently testified before Congress about the millions of vocational-tech jobs left unfilled in the U.S. while high school students are pressed to spend tens of thousands of dollars in pursuit of four-year degrees, which may or may not lead to jobs.

The latest VA DOE data show that 27 percent of MCPS students graduating in 2013-14 did not enroll in any institution of higher education within 16 months of graduation (compared to 28 percent for the state average.)

However, the MCPS percentage not continuing in education increased to 47 percent for economically disadvantaged students (compared to 41 percent for the state average.)

Mr. Saari is correct when he writes that “vocational education is finally getting the attention it deserves” and that MCPS should make it a priority. The so-called “old” BHS, which was built in 1974, could be a great resource for training students for the skilled jobs currently lacking applicants.

This is a nationwide problem and, by taking this initiative, MCPS could light the way for other communities in Virginia and beyond as we endeavor to bring back meaningful jobs for deserving young people.

Barbara Skinner,