When Durango High School ended its culinary arts program four years ago, it was not because the classes were unpopular with students. Quite the contrary. Students, parents and some local restaurateurs were disappointed to see the program go because the school was forced to make difficult program choices due to budget concerns.
It is great to see the culinary nutrition class revived and thriving, serving as many students – 125 each semester – as it can possibly hold. Teacher Jessica Bright and the DHS administration deserve thanks and a tip of the toque for bringing back a favorite.
Durango School District 9-R officials stated, when asking for a mill levy override in 2016, that the funds would be spent in several specific areas, including upgrading technology and attracting quality staff. They also vowed to prepare students for the workforce or college by giving schools the ability to create individualized learning plans. Offering classes in career and technical fields, like cooking, agriculture, business and marketing, was part of that promise.
While parents may have other plans, not every student who enrolls at Durango High wants to attend college after graduation. Many are eager to get to work upon graduation. And in restaurant-rich Durango, it is hard to imagine a better way to prepare for a cooking career. The entry-level class will be followed next year with a program that will allow students to earn professional certification in various aspects of the industry, and this semester, interested students can participate in culinary club activities, including cooking competitions.
We are happy to see the program’s return for another reason. It can be beneficial to college-bound students, as well. A hands-on, creative cooking course provides a way to learn useful life skills and engage with peers in a different setting; what a great break from a day filled with challenging math, science and language arts classes.
As for the program’s popularity, is it because DHS students have been exposed to so many diverse and delicious meals at our numerous local restaurants? Or are the many popular cooking competition shows the reason? It doesn’t matter. It’s great to know the kids are cooking.