Citing declining enrollment, the Lorain County JVS board of education members voted March 17 to eliminate the school’s plumbing program effective July 2017 when the last enrolled students are set to graduate.
The program has 17 students this school year compared to 33 in the 2000-2001 school year. The decline has cost the school $619,491 since 2001, said Jerry Pavlik, deputy superintendent, after the March 17 board meeting.
The plumbing curriculum will be incorporated into the heating and cooling systems program.
Rather than getting a two-year plumbing certificate after graduation, students will receive a one-year certificate for heating and cooling and a one-year certificate for plumbing in the merged program, Pavlik said.
The two-year program for juniors and seniors was the last in Ohio and Pavlik said the state was encouraging its elimination.
“This way, it’s more eclectic,” Pavlik said. “The thought from the state is that in these low-enrolled programs, by dual certification, it will actually make students more marketable.”
Board member Anne Schaum, who represents Oberlin, said a March 1 curriculum committee meeting that included members of Lorain-based Lucas Plumbing & Heating was enlightening. Lucas reps said becoming a plumber can take up to 10 years and they see the JVS program as a pre-apprenticeship that provides students with basic learning.
Board member Deborah Melda said owner Joe Lucas, who couldn’t be reached for comment, and his employees were supportive of the change. “They are very pleased and like the hybrid program,” she said.
Board member Rex Engle, who represents Amherst, said the Lucas people believe the change would help students enroll in plumbing apprenticeships in their senior year.
However, the elimination was criticized by Richard McCully, a retired plumbing parts salesman.
He told board members before the vote that he was baffled by the elimination when demand for plumbers and pipefitters is growing. “I talked to many people in the city of Elyria about this and they’re puzzled by it also,” he said.
Also critical was Eric Robson, an instructor and JVS teachers association president. He said the merger would “water down” standards because the HVAC program instructor isn’t certified to teach the plumbing program courses that retiring plumbing program instructor Frank Abbey is licensed for. “This in turn, does not give our students the adequate plumbing skills that are taught in our plumbing programs,” Robson said.
Robson said instructors haven’t had enough input in the decision and with plumbers earning between $31 and $52 per hour depending on their licensing, elimination was a mistake.
Board member Ayers Ratliff, who represents the Wellington Schools, said he sided with instructors. He accused superintendent Glenn Faircloth of discouraging freshmen and sophomores from joining the program by telling them it was going to be eliminated.
“I’d like to know how in the world this administration could close the program down to kids signing up before we even vote on it,” Ratliff said. “This situation has not been handled correctly.”
Faircloth said the program and other law enrollment programs were promoted in a $25,000 radio advertising campaign in 2014. He said he was a “cheerleader” for all programs at the school, which serves about 1,400 students on its Pittsfield Township campus and in satellite programs around the county.
Faircloth denied Raltiff’s implication that he sabotaged the plumbing program. “I take a little bit of offense to that because that is not the case here,” he said.
Board members Steve Ali, Dwayne Becker, Stephen Coleman, Engle, Charles Froehlich, Art Goforth, Kathryn Karpus, Richard Marcucci, Melda, Schaum, and Gary Wilson voted for elimination. Ratliff and James Schilens Sr. voted against it.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or GoodenowNews on Twitter.