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Beachcomber: Memories of Adult School

  • By David Barron

I guess I am getting old. Things seem to be changing so fast.
There are high-speed trains, Apple has it’s new I Pad, cell phones can do countless tasks for you, and then there are Internet activities such as Facebook and Twitter. I love all the new things, but when something “old” disappears, I am left wondering what is next.

Alhambra Unified School District recently announced that Adult Schools might soon be a thing of the past.
That announcement rang some school bells and caused the hard drive in my mind to bring up old files and replay old experiences.
I remember taking a bicycle repair class at adult school.

I had started riding my bike to work and could feel that that the old clunker needed some work. So I signed up for the bicycle class. Over the next 20 weeks, I took the bicycle apart and put everything back together again. By the time the semester ended, the old yellow bike was in smooth running order, ready for a ride to San Diego.

When we bought our house on Newmark Avenue, the place needed some landscape work and minor repairs. So, I took a landscape class at adult school. I learned how to plant grass from seed; plants rose bushes and then trim them during the winter. I also learned a bit about landscape design so I could plant stuff in an orderly fashion.
In high school I had wanted to take wood shop and auto mechanics.

But, they kept me in the college prep program that didn’t allow time for any of that “nonsense.” Because of that, I didn’t know a muffler from a power saw.
I wound up taking wood shop in adult school. I learned how to use the power saw, how to mortise and then apply a finish paint to complete the job. I took wood shop twice, each time concentrating on a different skill that I needed for a project at home.

I also took an auto maintenance class so that I could change the oil on the car, tune it up and make some minor repairs. My real reason was so that I would learn what all the parts were called -- things such as brake pads, alternator, generator, water pump, etc. -  so that when I took the car to the repair shop, I could understand the mechanic’s analysis of the car problem.

In gathering some facts for this column, I talked to Donna Perez, superintendent of the Alhambra Unified School District. She related how she, too, was a “graduate” of adult school, having taken a motorcycle repair class. It kind of surprised me that the prim and proper school superintendent was a motorcyclist. 
My wife took an adult class, having to do with sewing –not motorcycle repairs. She took it several years with a neighbor.

By next fall most of the community classes, along with ESL classes, will no longer be offered. A few classes will be offered to help people get their high school diploma or GED credential. Some “recreational” classes may be offered, but the students will have to pay the entire cost – not the few dollars they charge today.
The school district has had to cut its budget by $46 million over the past two years.

The state has given adult school programs low priority, resulting in a lack of funding. The district will continue to keep open the Scanlon Center in Alhambra and the Southeast Adult Center on Garvey Avenue for classes that are permitted.

Immigrants, who want to learn English, will be referred to churches and other non-profit institutions. That will be a big loss to our community because of our large numbers of non-English speakers and the continuing flow of immigrants to our area.

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