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Students could learn taxi driving, streetcar repair at future Spingarn High School

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D.C. students could learn how to be taxi drivers or repair streetcars through programs proposed for Spingarn High School, which is scheduled to be closed as a traditional school in June.

These two programs are part of a career and technical education center that DC Public Schools plans for the Ward 5 high school after it closes. The center will focus primarily on preparing students for careers in transportation and health care, officials say.

"We're currently working toward the goal of training students for high-demand industries," said DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz. "We continue to work closely with other agencies, like DDOT, to ensure we're serving our students and helping prepare them for future careers."

One of the more developed programs will teach mechanical and electrical repair skills in partnership with the under-construction

D.C. streetcar line, said Pedro Ribeiro, spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray. Since the line's car barn will be just south of Spingarn, students will be able to gain practical experience.

Students who complete a proposed taxi course would be able to get certified to drive taxis in the District immediately after graduating, said DC Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton, who said he has been in discussions with DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson about the program.

In addition to the taxi and streetcar courses, DCPS also hopes to offer an information technology course, Salmanowitz said. She said she did not have any details on the courses since they are still being developed.

These kinds of "career academies" are becoming more popular across the country as more evidence shows they can lead to student success, said Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy. "There's really a renewed interest in providing students who probably are not going to go to college with something that's worthwhile."

The good programs teach students the skills they will need to succeed in careers that really exist in the cities where the courses are offered, he said. "It's not just preparation for a permanently low-end job," but something that leads to a middle-class income, like experience working as an aide in a health care setting.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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