A longtime Silicon Valley trade school that trains essential workers such as electricians, mechanics and nurses could soon close its doors, the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic that’s swept the world.
But its leaders are fighting for a chance to survive another year. Officials from the Metropolitan Education District (MetroED) are asking the city of San Jose and Santa Clara County for $1 million total to keep the center from shuttering after significant financial losses tied to the public health emergency.
On Wednesday, MetroED leaders asked the city and the county for $500,000 each to allow the center to keep the lights on for the next year. The San Jose-based center, which was established 1968, helps provide vocational training for adults and students in programs such as culinary arts, manufacturing and medical assisting.
Linda Goytia, president of MetroED’s Governing Board, said the resources the center provides to students are irreplaceable, especially in training essential workers needed to fight COVID-19.
“(Our students) are going to be gainfully employed citizens and they’re going to make a significant contribution to the physical health of the region,” she said. “How is that not a win for everyone?”
MetroED is now facing “imminent closure,” according to letters sent to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez.
City and county officials have not said whether they will invest in MetroED or when a decision will be made.
Goytia said the center’s current financial situation stems from the pandemic, as well as a lack of investment from local school districts, who send students to learn there.
More than 2,000 students applied to attend MetroED this upcoming academic year, Goytia said, but school districts only paid for enough seats in the center’s programs to send 1,262 students. Goytia said she doesn’t blame school districts for not sending more students.
“They’re also being forced to make the budget cuts due to COVID-19,” she said.
During shelter-in-place, MetroED’s Superintendent Alyssa Lynch said in an email, the organization closed a medical science class, closed a cybersecurity class and did not replace an instructor in the automotive program who retired, reducing four periods and 100 students of capacity.
Some San Jose residents said losing MetroED as a source of education for vulnerable families and to help train employees for local businesses would be a tragedy.
Jesse Gonzalez, a former MetroED student who earned oil change and digital multimeter certifications before graduating high school, said hearing that the center might close is sad and shocking.
“At my home school, Oak Grove (High School), there are no programs like the ones at SVCTE (Silicon Valley Career Technical Education),” he said.
Ann Ravel, a former FEC commissioner who is now running for state Senate, said the local economy will suffer if MetroED closes and fewer people get the training they need to land good jobs.
Ravel and Goytia said the $500,000 requests are relatively small and that the city and county should show that they care through their budgets. “It’s actually a pretty minimal sum to make a really big difference,” Ravel said.
Goytia said the center lost $500,000 when one school district reduced the number of students it sent to MetroED.
“In the short term, I kept the ask low,” she said. “And $500,000, for this area, is a low ask. This is Silicon Valley.”
Along with providing programs that most high schools can’t offer, Gonzales said, MetroED shows students paths toward successful careers that don’t require college.
“That’s important, because I feel like in high school they tell you, ‘Go to college, go to college, go to college,’ ” Gonzalez said. “They don’t really show you different paths that you can take.”
Receiving money from the city and county is only the first step, Goytia said. She’s also calling on local politicians to advocate for MetroED to receive state funding again after cuts in 2013.
“Two or three years out, we’ll probably be forced to dip into reserves and you can’t do that for very long,” she said. “Because meanwhile, you still have to pay salaries and benefits and all those costs keep going up.”
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