Starting next fall, incoming Escondido high school students will be required to take at least one vocational education course in order to graduate.
The decision to add the requirement, approved unanimously by the Escondido Union High School District board of trustees Tuesday night, goes against national and local trends to instead concentrate on more traditional classes needed for college entrance.
Board President Charlotte Hotchkiss said she considers the decision "an important step" in keeping students not bound for college in school.
Vocational courses--including mechanical classes, business courses, consumer education, homemaking, child care and agriculture--have seen enrollments slump as state requirements for graduation have increased.
"Some students don't give a hoot about that third and fourth year of English and couldn't care less about an additional year of math," Hotchkiss said. "We need to keep these alternatives open for those who are not going to go to college."
Adrianna Hakes, coordinator of vocational education for the high school district, said the requirement for five units of vocational education is important as an affirmation of the importance of vocational classes, but she added that "we will continue to work for more." Vocational education faculty had requested that a 10-unit requirement be imposed.
Nationally, sagging enrollments have led to cancellation of classes and reduction in vocational education teaching positions as local, state and federal officials have put more stress on academic subjects such as English, history and mathematics.
Hotchkiss said the enrollments have dropped because the vocational classes have been modernized and upgraded to a point where students have chosen physical education or student aide positions to avoid the additional schoolwork.
The board vote is likely to boost enrollment in vocational classes, Hotchkiss said, "but it is (also) designed to expose all students to the practical side of education, because there are some who work better with their hands, others who work better with their heads."
She said 60% of Escondido high school students do not go on to college, "and it is important that these students have a full curriculum of courses to prepare them for the work place."
Associate Supt. Fred Heinle said college-bound students could obtain waivers from the vocational requirement "if they are enrolled on an academic track." He said courses that did not attain minimum enrollments would be canceled.
The course requirement will apply only to students who start high school beginning this fall.