Science teacher Jasmine Filley works with Lincoln Feiring, a year two student in the agriscience program at the Career Technical Education Center, to set up a team meeting on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Most Salem high school students won’t resume in-person classes until mid-April. But dozens of seniors got a jump on their classmates last week as twice-weekly lessons resumed at Salem-Keizer’s Career Technical Education Center.

The warehouse in north Salem now has agriscience students planning nursery orders, auto body students detailing cars and law enforcement students running through video simulations to hone their negotiating skills.

It’s a welcome change for many.

“The people that I come here with are basically my family,” said Bella Wolf, a senior in the law enforcement program.

“We don’t take it for granted. We definitely take it as a privilege,” said senior Gavin Reed, who's also studying law enforcement.

Gavin Reed, a student in the law enforcement program, uses the MILO simulator to run through a scenario at the Career Technical Education Center on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The center houses 10 career programs for high school juniors and seniors, who typically spend two days per week at CTEC and the other three at their regular high school. Core subjects like English, math and science are integrated into career-specific lessons, so construction students learn math through developing building plans and cosmetology students study the chemistry of salon products.

District high schools have been closed for the past year due the pandemic, but CTEC administrators worked to bring students in for brief in-person lessons starting last fall. Now, seniors in all programs are back two days per week.

For some, the change means a busier schedule. Senior Tabitha Arias said when schools closed last March, she got a job and began working longer hours. Now, she’s juggling that with more class time in her law enforcement program.

“It’s kind of weird coming back to school,” she said.

McNary seniors Jose Martinez-Reyes, left, and Colby Brooks, work on sanding a 1965 Ford Mustang as part of the auto body repair and painting program at the Career Technical Education Center on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Pandemic closures have also thrown off the recruitment schedule for the career center, assistant principal James Weber said. Typically, programs would begin recruiting for next year in December, with applications closing in February. The process includes open houses and school visits that haven’t been possible this year.

“It’s been a little harder to reach our community,” Weber said.

Instead, applications opened in January and will stay open until programs fill, he said. Most have space for 60 high school juniors.

Cosmetology, one of the center’s most popular programs, is likely already full, principal Rhonda Rhodes said. Applications will close soon for law enforcement, video and game design and animation, auto body repair, welding and manufacturing and residential construction.

Rhodes said the center hopes to see more applications for its programs in culinary arts, agriscience, drone technology and robotics, and business development.

More information and application instructions are available on the CTEC website.

Instructor Alex Crays talks with students Owen Scott, Kamryn Miller and Marco Garcia in the paint booth in the auto body repair and painting program at the Career Technical Education Center on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Justin Saunders-Tyquingco, a student in the agriscience program at the Career Technical Education Center, prepares for a team meeting on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Owen Scott, a senior at Sprague High School and in the auto body repair and painting program, helps wrap a vehicle in plastic sheeting in the paint booth at the Career Technical Education Center on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Bella Wolf, a student in the law enforcement program, uses the MILO simulator to run through a scenario at the Career Technical Education Center on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Owen Scott, a senior at Sprague High School and in the auto body repair and painting program, adjusts the plastic sheeting on a vehicle in the paint booth at the Career Technical Education Center on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Bodies outlined in tape from a previous lesson sit on the floor as a class in the law enforcement program meets at the Career Technical Education Center on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Correction: This article was updated to correct the date in photo captions.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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