Ottawa Township High School students protesting the cut of the building trades course want to see 2,000 people at the next school board meeting.
About 50 people, including building trades instructor Dave Keeley, attended a meeting Tuesday in the basement of the American Legion called to encourage community members to attend that next school board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 28, at the high school.
The OTHS School Board effectively canceled the building trades course in 2013-2014 by not bringing back Keeley for next school year. The district faces a $3.5 million deficit and some board members have said the building trades course will be the first in a number of future cuts needed to balance the budget.
Students running Tuesday's meeting want the board to move the meeting from the choir room to the auditorium or gymnasium to accommodate what they hope is a large crowd. They asked people who come to the meeting to wear red or white, the school's colors.
They have requested to be on the board's agenda and have lined up some people to give public comment, including some tradespeople, said senior Tanner Boaz. Building trades students said they have sent letters and had some private conversations with unions looking to support their cause.
People wishing to comment are being asked to give one week's notice to speak, or fill out an index card at the board meeting, said junior Brian Allen.
They believe there will be strength in numbers.
"We want this to be a historic meeting," Boaz said. "We want as much, or as many people as we can to be there. Even if they don't speak, (the board) will see you're there."
Also, the building trades students want public comments to be focused.
"We need to focus on what's in front of us, and that's saving the building trades, that's our main priority," Daugherty said. "There are other things that we can talk about, but we want it to be a civil meeting. We don't want chaos."
Allen said Tuesday his guidance counselor told him in November not to sign up for the course, "because it no longer existed."
After meeting privately with a few students in late March, board member Anita Kopko emailed fellow board members and Superintendent Matt Winchester on March 24 asking if students were being told not to take the course, before the board had a chance to vote on it.
She was concerned that it might skew the enrollment numbers administrators told board members. The program has 37 students for this school year, but the projected enrollment for next year has not been shared.
"We were told we weren't allowed to take the class," said Allen, clad in an orange T-shirt that said on the back "A working class hero is something to be," taken from a John Lennon song.
He added: "We were going to have to take a different route of education than through the trades program."
Some of the students said they would be in favor of making enrollment harder through an application process or having students' parents fill out a financial liability form if that helped the high school fund the course.
Allen told those in attendance one thing is certain: "I'm not quitting. Not until we get (building trades) back."