St. Maries High School had the chance to show off its career-readiness programs this week.

Idaho State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra was in North Idaho for other meetings Tuesday and took the time to visit St. Maries and see the opportunities students have to prepare themselves for life after high school. District superintendent Alica Holthaus, SMHS principal Chris Asbury, and School Board Chairman Jody Hendrickx met with Ybarra for a short tour.

Through North Idaho College, St. Maries students can get technical certificates in certain computer applications and skills, and Ybarra discussed those programs with Bobbie Peet, the teacher and advisor for those classes.

The woodshop program at SMHS is underway again after not being available for several years, and other school district projects helped make that possible. The old bleachers at Heyburn Elementary School have been removed to make way for new ones, and that wood has been made available for the shop students to get the program off the ground. The school officials on the tour were especially proud to highlight an Adirondack-style chair that had been made from the repurposed wood.

Those shop classes had been unavailable because of challenges finding the right staff to teach them.

“If you don’t have enough teachers, something goes away, and unfortunately that’s been the trades,” Asbury said. “It’s a huge juggling act to fill those gaps. It’s a mixed bag here, between guys and gals that want to go off to college and others that are more skilled in these areas, and we definitely need those skills. I mean, I can’t do that,” he said, gesturing to the chair.

Lastly, the group went down to the metal shop, where they visited with instructors Andy Bailey and Jim Shubert. Much of the equipment there had been donated by PotlatchDeltic, which had also sponsored internships and other training for SMHS students. Several high schoolers have already passed at least part of their welder’s tests, putting them in good position for becoming certified soon after graduation.

“I’m hearing a real push from parents, that they want more options in career and technical education, so I think it’s a great thing that we’re able to push in that direction,” Ybarra said. “That’s something I’ve heard from my student advisory group, too: we want more real-world experiences in school. I want to know that what I’m doing in school will contribute to the path I take. So I think this is awesome.”

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