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Career and Technical Education (CTE) students at Damascus High School are fighting to keep their majors in automotive engineering and restaurant management.

Plans to renovate their aging high school have been pushed back to fiscal year 2029 by the Board of Education. There is currently no room in those plans for the automotive technology program.

The BOE has voted not to include certain career-related programs at Damascus when it reopens, but Montgomery County Public School officials stressed that this is not final and that no specific spaces are officially included in the renovation plans.

During a March 21 meeting of the Montgomery County Council’s Education and Culture Committee, school leaders said they would transform the automotive technology program into a more forward-looking program that includes work with electric cars.

They also said that students interested in the current technology program could attend Seneca Valley or Thomas Edison high schools and that transportation would be provided between Damascus and Seneca Valley.

They also noted that the 57 students currently enrolled in Damascus would be able to continue for at least one more school year since renovation work would not begin beforehand.

The district offers 51 career and technology programs spread across all schools. Not all are offered at every school.

“I just don’t think it’s smart or forward-looking to reduce a successful program,” Council Member Marilyn Balcombe said during the committee meeting. “If anything, we should be adding more CTE programs, not reducing them.”

Balcombe noted that workers in the regional automotive industry have told her that the current program is necessary and that they hire its graduates.

Dawn Luedtke, whose district includes Damascus High School, wrote a letter to her fellow council members urging them not to support the BOE’s request to delay renovations at the school, calling it “a significant setback for a project for which this council has already approved planning and construction funds.”

Construction on Damascus High was originally scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2025.

“The impact of again delaying these improvements to one of the oldest school buildings in the county, a building with significant capital needs and a facility so central to the Damascus community, would be devastating and felt throughout the upcounty as this project is also intended to increase capacity to address overcrowding at Clarksburg High School,” Luedtke wrote.

The school was built in 1950 and renovated in 1978.

According to Luedtke, MCPS first informed the municipality in December 2023 that a full automotive technology area might not be included in the investment project.

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