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Culinary Arts program still has spaces available
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There are a few spaces still available in the Manteca Unified Vocational Academy’s Culinary Arts Program.

This is a two-year course work which combines academic instruction and focused hands-on training that is designed to help the student become job-ready by the time they complete the program, plus receive a high school diploma at the same time.

Since the Academy is a charter school, the first of its kind launched by the district, enrollment is open to any incoming 11th-grade student in San Joaquin County who meets all the program requirements. The budget comes from ADA (average daily attendance) funds, so students don’t pay a tuition fee to be in the class.

Total enrollment in the program as of Tuesday was 24 students from different high school campuses in the school district. The maximum number that the class can accommodate is 32. The class needs 28 students enrolled in the program “for us to break even,” said Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer in August just before the official opening of the 2012-13 school year.

Even if that break-even number is not reached, however, the district will move ahead and keep the vocational academy open, said Manteca Adult School Principal Diane Madeiros who is also now responsible for the new charter school.

While the culinary arts’ kitchen and other facilities are being completed, the class is currently being held on the third floor of the new district office on West Louise Avenue. There are currently three teachers on board. A chef, who will be part of the teaching staff, is expected to join the staff by the end of the week following interviews with applicants in the last few days.

Part of the building that was once the district office and board room which is currently under renovation is expected to be completed in November. In addition to the classroom and kitchen facilities, there will be a café with the culinary students designing as well as running the business. They will also be responsible for preparing the menu and the food.

“They will be operating a business just like any business in the community,” explained Medeiros in an earlier interview.

The school board, when it approved the vocational academy, was clear in their intent to have the charter school pay for itself, she added.

“So for our budget, we’re only spending money brought in by the ADA. We’re not using general fund money to do this.”

That is the reason the academy partnered with the school district’s Nutritional Services which is the department responsible for remodeling the old district offices for the culinary arts program, Medeiros said.

“When our facilities are ready in the middle of November, we’ll be using our own kitchen and begin developing the care,” she added.

What the district expects to accomplish in the future is explained in vocational academy’s vision: “to prepare students for a career opportunity through a high school diploma and articulated certificate within two years.”

That is done by teachers providing “technical course work and rigorous academic instruction with a focus on hands-on training to prepare the students for their career.’

Students, upon graduation, will receive their high school diploma along with a certificate or other post-secondary institution such as college credits. The online college courses will not be available during the first quarter but “maybe” during the second quarter, Messer also explained during an earlier interview.

What is more certain is that the college courses, which the vocational academy students will be available to access while being enrolled in the culinary arts class, will be offered through the Grand Canyon University in Arizona, the same university that the San Joaquin County Office of Education uses for its own programs. Under the agreement between Manteca Unified and the university, Grand Canyon will be charging the district for the college courses taken by the students.

Original discussions had mentioned Delta College as a possible partner. But Messer said Grand Canyon University’s costs are even less than what Delta charges. Students who decided to take these college courses will have access to them 24/7, with university professors being accessible to the students online as well.

For more information about how to sign up in the Vocational Academy’s Culinary Arts program, call (209) 858-7460 or log on to