Career wing clipped by growth

Five years ago, Chris Douthitt started teaching video classes at Oak Harbor High School. From a cart with a couple of video cameras on it, the program has expand to where it now boasts original broadcasts that any cable subscriber in the city can watch, including replays of Wildcat varsity football games.

As the program expands, Douthitt and his students are increasingly cramped inside a classroom in one of the “round buildings” behind Oak Harbor High School.

The videography situation typifies the problem teachers have trying to offer classes relevant in the 21st century out of a building designed and built in the early 1970s.

They hope they will soon have modern facilities if voters approve a $54 million bond that would fund renovation of Oak Harbor High School. That money would pay upgrades to the school’s infrastructure, build new classrooms, expand smaller classrooms and widen hallways.

Should voters approve the bond, which needs to pass by a 60 percent supermajority, the school district would receive an estimated $19 million in matching money from the state.

When the then-new high school opened in 1974, the career and technical buildings housed such antiquated classroom offerings as typing and home economics.

Today, many classes focus on training that will lead to employment after high school. Those classes include computer-aided drafting and a career-oriented culinary arts program geared toward the restaurant industry, which is a far cry from basic home economics.

Several of the teachers said the electrical systems aren’t adequate and the current rooms are too small for classes and equipment storage.

Culinary class shares space

“We don’t have anything that hardly resembles a commercial kitchen,” said Louise Reuble, culinary arts teacher at the high school.

The culinary arts students recently brought home a first place award in a statewide competition. The kitchens located in her classroom lack gas ranges, mixers, counter space and equipment needed to better prepare students for a culinary career.

Reuble said students have to be careful about what is plugged into outlets. If too many items are connected, then circuit breakers pop. The fire danger is obvious.

The culinary arts group, also known as Wildcat Catering, caters several events each year. They work out of the Bistro, a room in the C and D wings which doubles as an auto shop classroom. They catered four events throughout this school year, which range from a retirement party to a practice meal that helps students prepare for the state competition.

Reuble said she would like enough space to be able to cater events several times a month, however, the shared space with the auto shop class makes that impossible.

She said that students are crowded into the kitchens in her classroom, where one corner space has three small kitchens shared by 15 students.

The culinary arts program has changed significantly since Rueble started teaching in Oak Harbor before the current high school was built.

The home ec program featured classes in sewing, cooking, childcare and interior design. She said the classroom that doubles as a bistro and auto shop classroom used to be a childcare lab.

The culinary arts class isn’t the only one that needs more space at the high school.

Art space

too limited

Frank Jacques, art teacher, said there are often 30 students that work in a class designed for 15 students.

“The spaces aren’t designed for the things we do,” Jacques said.

He said another issue he faces is a lack of storage space and poor plumbing facilities. He said he has to store materials in more than one area and, when students clean up at the sinks, the plumbing has backed up.

Douthitt said his largest class is 30 students and they, too, have to deal with a small space.

“It’s a challenge to have the space to offer television production,” Douthitt said. His students are also aware of how much power they are using, or else the circuit breakers will pop.

He said he doesn’t have the storage space to properly stow equipment.

“It’s kind of to the point where we stack things on top of things,” Douthitt said, adding the additional space would benefit students as they produce their projects.

The lack of space is an issue for many teachers at the high school. That’s an issue they hope is resolved after the bond, which runs on May 16, is approved and the high school is renovated.

You can reach Nathan Whalen at 675-6611 or

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