Test raises doubts for tech center WASL may throw wrench in works

EVERETT – One thing is certain at the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center: Unpredictable times are ahead.

The vocational campus has record enrollment this year and wants to add more programs and classroom space, but state WASL exams that will become a graduation requirement in 2008 could reverse the trend.

Michael O’Leary / The Herald

Kelsey Overstreet, 18, from Arlington works to change the fuel filter on a Ford. Overstreet is learning to repair automobiles at the Sno-Isle Skill Center in Everett.

“We have the demand for expansion with 2,000 applications,” capacity for 1,000 and industry demand, said Steve Burch, director of the skills center off Airport Road in south Everett.

Enrollment reached a record 1,041 in October. Sno-Isle offers 21 classes in a variety of skills including culinary arts, diesel mechanics, precision machining and veterinary assisting.

Sno-Isle hopes the Legislature will approve $150,000 from the capital budget this session for planning and pre-design work over the next two years. It would then become eligible for construction money. An addition could cost about $4.5 million.

It is also studying the possibility of adding programs such as fiber optics, auto body repair, floral design and biotechnology.

At the same time, Sno-Isle is waiting to find out if local school districts will allow their students to attend Sno-Isle if they don’t pass state Washington Assessment of Student Learning exams. Beginning with the class of 2008, this year’s freshmen, students must pass reading, writing and math to graduate.

Burch recently raised a series of questions to the Mukilteo School Board, which oversees Sno-Isle:

* Will participating school districts continue to send students who have not met state academic standards on the WASL?

* Will the skills center be allowed to serve as “WASL reinforcement” with instructors teaching skills tested on the exams?

* Will meeting WASL standards become a prerequisite for attending the skills center?

“We just don’t know the answers,” Burch said.

For now, Sno-Isle is offering teacher training to help high schools get students to pass the WASL, said Linda Garbo, a Sno-Isle assistant director.

There will be lots of logistical challenges to solve between now and then, she added.

For instance, when students take the WASL in the spring of their sophomore year, results don’t come back until August – long after they would apply and be accepted to Sno-Isle.

“The timeline is real critical for us,” she said.

Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or stevick@heraldnet.com.

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