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Algebra With Power Tools? Lawmakers Push To Add Unique Shop Class To Colorado Schools

DENVER (CBS4) - State lawmakers want to bring shop class back to Colorado schools. We're not talking about your father's shop class.

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Instead of birdhouses, they're building real houses at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood. The school incorporates shop class into math class. Sophomore Saranya Jones never dreamed algebra class would entail using power tools.

"You have to do actual math to figure out 'Okay, so this is where this is supposed to be. This is the angle it's supposed be at.'"

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Scott Burke heads up the program that's become the envy of school districts across the state and possible answer to the construction industry's prayers.

"One of things missing in many high schools all throughout the country is the hands-on application of answering the age-old question, especially in math, of when am I ever going to need to know how to use this," he said. "With this you're able to get students engaged at a much earlier level, during that 8th, 9th, 10th grade year to spark some interest in them."

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But like most career technical programs, Green Mountain's is run on a shoestring budget with donated materials and a makeshift classroom. State Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp plans to change that.

"This bill is about 'Let's bring shop back to school.'"

She's sponsoring a bill that would allow schools to apply for state grant money to build career technical programs in a wide range of fields.

"Did you know in five years 50 percent of Xcel workforce is going to be retired? We don't have electricians. We don't have plumbers," she said.

The Department of Labor projects huge shortages of electricians, welders, auto mechanics and medical assistants in the next decade. Kraft-Tharp believes an investment in programs like the one at Green Mountain High School could yield a big return.

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Saranya Jones isn't sure she will go into the trades, but she says she's also learning communication skills, teamwork skills and life skills.

"We look at pictures where we just started walls and you see our house and we're like 'Wow, we've come so far in a short period time. I think pretty great."

The house is for Habitat for Humanity and will be moved to a neighborhood for a family to live in at the end of the semester. The bill passed its first committee unanimously.

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