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Crescent Valley Auto Shop

Crescent Valley High School's Greg Nicol teaches students on Friday about the tools they will use in his auto shop class. After nearly two decades, auto shop classes have returned to Crescent Valley; before, students had to travel to Corvallis High for the lessons. 

For more than 18 years Crescent Valley High School students who wanted to take auto shop could only do so by traveling to Corvallis High School for one of the classes there.

Crescent Valley teacher Greg Nicol made that journey himself as a student. Nicol, who graduated from Crescent Valley in 2009, said while he had a car to get to Corvallis High and the drive wasn’t bad, the real challenge was that CHS didn’t have many spots open in its auto shop classes.

Nicol, who teaches welding, metals and beginning woodshop, said that challenge has endured: Typically, he said, only a few of them could get into auto shop.

But that’s all changed this year: Nicol is now teaching two sections of auto shop at Crescent Valley. It's the first time the school has offered the class in at least 18 years.

Having these two new classes, each with capacity for 28 students, means a lot more students will have the opportunity to take auto shop, Nicol said.

“It’s really exciting, having been that student who had to go over to CHS,” he said. “I’m really happy we’re doing it.”

Nicol said the school has been using funds allocated to the district for career and technical education programs under Measure 98 to set up the auto shop equipment. He said the school has spent about $20,000 on bigger tools like a lift, a tire mounter, a wheel balancer and a brake lathe. It’s also spent about another $10,000 on hand tools, he said.

Nicol said while his auto shop students will not earn professional certifications from his classes, they will get the foundations for skills that could lead them to getting a job at somewhere like a tire shop.

“The notion that every student should go to college is misguided,” he said. “This gives students the opportunity to get started learning a trade that can lead to a living wage.”

He said that even students not going into a trade benefit from the class because they'll gain the confidence to do maintenance on their vehicles.

He added that many students already have an interest in working on cars.

“We had kids skipping class to go out in the parking lot to work on their cars. We thought, why not just give them credit for what they are already doing?”

Nicol said the curriculum in his auto shop class will be aligned with the introductory auto shop class at Corvallis High, so if students want to take advanced auto shop, they can do it at CHS, which has more room in advanced auto shop than it does in introductory auto shop.

Andrew Kesterson, a senior in one of Nicol’s auto shop classes, said he plans to study mechanical engineering at Oregon State University after graduating. Taking auto shop will make him better prepared to work in the field, he said.

“I’m looking forward to getting more familiar with the tools and learning more about the design process,” he said.

Kesterson added that he’s taken other shop and engineering classes at Crescent Valley, and he’s excited to get to take the next step.

He said he wouldn’t want to travel to Corvallis High School for the class.

“It doesn’t work as well; you end up rushing to get there because the times don’t always line up. It’s much easier to have it here.”

He added that having the class at Crescent Valley meant he could potentially stay after class or come in during lunch to work on projects, which would be impossible if he were traveling to Corvallis High.

While Nicol’s students have been learning the basics of safety and the tools they will use in the class, he said the program needs donated cars for students to work on as the term gets going. So far a couple of staff members and a student have donated cars, he said, but more are needed.

Nicol said the cars don’t need to be working, but need to be complete vehicles with keys and a title that can be signed over to the district. If vehicles cannot drive, he said, a tow of the vehicle could possibly be arranged by the school.

Nicol can be reached at greg.nicol@corvallis.k12.or.us or through Crescent Valley’s office, 541-757-5801.

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Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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