The Oregon Career and Technology Center (OCTC) a part of the Oregon City School District, will only offer a few basic courses as the Oregon school board continues to cut costs.
P.J. Kapfhammer, president of the school board, said the OCTC has not yet been officially closed.
“We have discussed it as a board, but we have not closed it yet,” Kapfhammer said. “We are looking at offering just the minimal classes like the EMT and CPR courses.”
Superintendent Dr. Mike Zalar said the OCTC began operating in the 1970’s with the Adult Basic Education Program and the EMT program, which took place after school in the evening hours.
By the late 1990s, the evening operation expanded to include daytime workforce development programs, including customized training and human resource coordinators that provided specialized training for local businesses.
That same timeframe also provided opportunities through the federal government’s Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
“Additional funding provided to retrain under-employed and un-employed citizens of Lucas County was awarded to Oregon City schools under a ‘pay for performance’ contract,” Zalar said. “Our proximity to Toledo provided the district access to those training dollars and an opportunity to provide a quality regional adult education program.”
The monies raised by the adult education program enabled the district to invest dollars back into the district through the purchase of computers and software for the entire Career Tech Program, according to Zalar.
“Clay students would use the equipment during the day while the adult education students used them at night,” Zalar said. “It was a great partnership. We moved to the Jay J. Shuer building in 2001 while continuing to provide services to the county.”
In July of 2003 the Adult Workforce Development (AWD) Department moved from Clay and the Shuer Center to the Centennial Hall campus at 2424 Seaman Road, in Toledo. This location provided a mandatory access to public transportation to access federal AWD training funds. The revenue generated from the various training programs paid for 100 percent of the operation, according to Zalar.
The AWD program in 2011 moved into the Wynn Center on Bayshore Road.
“This move back into Oregon had a significant impact on revenue generation at a time when there was little room for additional spending,” Zalar explained. “Over the last several years, the funding streams shifted and began to become harder to access. Enrollment began to decline in our traditionally successful programs and several changes were made in personnel and operation.”
At one time, the district averaged between 1,200-1,500 people annually between the full and part time programming.
The OCTC also offered Self-Enrichment classes, including golf, rug braiding, floral design, quilting, candy making, Yoga, Tai Chi, Ballroom Dance, Zumba, financial planning, smoking cessation and weight loss seminars.
“Oregon community members allotted for a majority of the evening community education programming,” Zalar said. “We had usually about 200 per semester. The peak years were 2003-2005. In 2005, over 1,600 people were served in part time programming and between 50-100 adults in full time programs. This was when state and federal funding were at their highest levels.”
The OCTC has lost money because of a drop in attendance in the last several years, said Kapfhammer.
“I just think it is a sign of the economic times,” Kapfhammer said. “We have just had less and less people using the center. Before, it did bring in money to the district. In the financial status we are in now, with funding being pulled by the state, we can’t continue to absorb the financial loss.”
Adults who may have had no issue paying the fees to learn new skills in culinary arts or medical and dental assisting in prior years are now reticent to spend money not knowing if there is a job out there once they complete the program, added Kapfhammer.
“It is tough out there for people looking for jobs,” he said. “To pay for something and not know if you will get a job would be tough.”
The enrichment classes have also suffered because of the economy, Kapfhammer said.
“People can’t afford the personal stuff right now,” he explained. “People have less money and they are doing even less with the money they do have. With the district losing $8 million in the next few years in state funding, we have to protect the classes and programs that serve our kids.”
At the height of its popularity, the Adult Education Program generated nearly $1 million, according to Zalar.
“This was also at the time when federal dollars were easy to obtain, the state of Ohio had reimbursement dollars from the Ohio Department of Education and local businesses were doing well, so they could afford to pay for training,” Zalar explained. “That money was needed to pay for program expenses, including the overhead of the building and eight full time staff salaries.”
The board will make a decision on what classes will and will not survive the chopping block within the next month, said Kapfhammer.
“The classes and programs are nice to be able to offer to the community,” Kapfhammer said. “If there is a demand for certain classes in the community then we will try to keep offering them, but we have to do what is best for the district and our kids right now.”
Zalar agreed, adding that the enrichment and adult evening education classes had been supported by revenue generated by the daytime adult education programs.
“When you take away the portion of the program that generates 80 percent of the revenue, the remaining 20 percent is not sustainable,” Zalar said. “By themselves, the evening programs were not able to generate enough revenue to cover the cost of supervision and marketing. Since the general fund has to be focused on K-12 education, it is not feasible to run the adult programs at this time.”
Attendance during the past three years has declined significantly, Zalar said. Historically, the operational cost of instruction and programming had been at the breakeven point.
“Since about 2008 the funding streams for Adult Education Programs have been drying up,” he said. “The state of Ohio has seen a significant decrease in enrollment in these types of programs statewide. The OCTC tapped into reserves for about two years, losing about $20,000 each year.”
The funds that were lost were not general fund dollars taken away from the district, said Zalar. Rather, it was the revenue that was produced from the adult education programs that had been generated in previous years.
Zalar said the district will continue to offer the EMT-Basic and CPR courses, which it has done for 25 years.
“These programs have been solid for many years and are still profitable,” he said. “These two programs provide a valuable training opportunity for our area. Small local fire departments depend on volunteers to staff the stations. In order to be a qualified volunteer, an individual must have EMT-Basic certification. We are determined to continue to assist our local fire departments.”
Kapfhammer said the board will also look at the possibility of leasing space at Wynn to bring money into the district.
“I would love to see something educationally driven in the building,” he said. “It would be nice to lease the space to bring money into the district. I will not allow Wynn to sit empty.”
Zalar added that the district will continue to look into ways to offer services to the community as well.
"In the future, I envision a more community based education program designed to meet the educational needs of our local Oregon and Jerusalem Township community,” he said.