Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Director Amir Abo-Shaeer gives an update to the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education.
Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Director Amir Abo-Shaeer gives an update to the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education on the proposal to build a Career Technical Education facility. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education is moving forward with a plan to create a Career Technical Education facility at Dos Pueblos High School, but the administration has some concerns that that highly touted project will come in over budget.

The board heard an update on the project on Tuesday from Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Director Amir Abo-Shaeer and Emily Shaeer, his wife, who is the program coordinator for the Engineering Academy.

“We do a great job with sports, we do a great job with some of the arts, but these core subjects that really are the foundational kind of knowledge that leads to a lot of types of jobs and types of careers people can go into, those are worthy of being showcased as well,” Abo-Shaeer said. “We found a way through the work we do with our students and ultimately we’re going to work to spread that to other school programs to create professional work. 

“We think this is a revolutionary idea, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

The $15.9 million Career Technical Education facility — called the CTE Pavilion — would support the Product Innovation and Design, Software and Systems Development, and Media Arts pathways at the high school.

The design of the project has been completed and submitted to the Division of State Architect. Final approval is expected in September.

The district is facing a strict deadline; a $4.2 million grant from the state to fund the project is contingent on DSA-approved plans by Oct. 24, 2019.

Superintendent Cary Matsuoka also said at Tuesday’s meeting that the current construction market is “inflated,” so there’s an urgency to move forward quickly before the cost of the project increases. 

The district and Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation have agreed to split any increase or savings in project costs 50-50. The district plans to pay for any cost overruns out of a fund with $5 million set aside for technology upgrades and the foundation plans to fundraise its share. 

The proposed museum facility will include usable exhibit/showcase space. The open roof deck will be built on top of the building designated for the Engineering Academy. A separate building will include a new media facility and support the Media Arts pathway. The facility will feature outdoor exhibits related to wind and solar power and provide a venue for special events and community gatherings. 

Officials hope the facility will become an educational hub for the community and be used year-round as a working museum campus. It might also host summer camps, school field trips, teacher training institutes, and other educational activities.

The goal is for students to create products that will be showcased in professional, museum-quality exhibits and experiences.

“We’re trying to prove we can create professional quality work with students, and we’re trying to prove that we can not only spread that on the high school level, but all the way down into the elementary,” Abo-Shaeer said. 

Emily Shaeer said the timing is right for a shift in thinking about how high schools educate students.

“Career technical education is a really exciting place in public education right now,” she said. “It’s where a lot of innovation is possible because it is unconstrained in ways that traditional subjects are more constrained.”

The program, she said, will teach students how to do things. 

“Our career technical education programs at Dos Pueblos have really been at the forefront . . .  because at the heart of career technical education is project-based learning,” she said. “We’re talking about culinary. You’re talking about automotive, you’re talking about computer software, coding, all of these types of programs are really about doing the work.”

Board member Jacqueline Reid said the project is “really exciting,” but Matsuoka warned about the construction costs.

“There comes a time, if it comes in really high, we’ll have to ask how do we rescope this thing.:

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.