The Woodshop Vanishes!

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Change is consistent with the passage of time. And with a school built all the way back in 1966. Naturally, a lot of changes taking place, be it superintendent musical chairs, expansions onto the building or the constant addition and removal of courses as teachers come and go, Harwood has constantly been changing since its inception. However, some changes stand out more than others. The industrial arts wing, an entire network of classrooms and shops was decommissioned years ago. I’m Silas. I’m Wyeth. I’m Carly. And we wanted to dive deeper into the now defunct industrial arts wing. So we ventured down to the skeleton of the wing to speak with Brian Wagner, the last remaining teacher to work in the repurpose space. This is hidden Harwood.

We walk into Wagner’s room. While several 3d printers whirr in the background, various computers and a flight simulator sit stagnant on the tables in the small workspace before we cross the threshold into the main classroom.

So of course, we’re here to talk about the wood shop. Do you remember what year shutdown?

Brian Wagner:
I don’t remember the exact year I remember that our industrial arts teacher, Steve Skilton retired. And he’d been here for decades. And at that point, they decided the administration, the previous administration, decided not to fill that position with another industrial arts teacher. And, you know, they made the decision that maybe those types of courses, skills can be taught through Barre tech, Burlington tech kind of places. So they, they that’s when they shut it down. I think it is a shame there’s there’s a lot of folks here that would really enjoy that kind of learning. More than just a woodshop. They did metals, metalworking, welding, auto repair. I mean, there’s a whole host of skills and trades that now folks in the community are clamoring for. There’s like a dearth of carpenters and plumbers, electricians and people that do that kind of work. And this would be a place for, for them to get started on that.

You mentioned when Wyeth and I came down yesterday that this actually used to be part of the industrial arts like-

Its like a wing


So can you tell me a little bit more about how that was laid out? Like what did this room used to be?

Brian Wagner:
I’m pretty sure my recollection again, I only came down here a couple of times. I was teaching the middle school at the time. But uh, was, this was more of a classroom place. Although I think there was some work areas, you could do stuff but this I think there were desks down here as opposed to the tables. So you know, there could be classwork going on in here. Maybe Skilton was doing some direct instruction about something. Think this was more of a fabrication room. We can’t obviously, we’re recording you can’t see this. But to my right is another room that the classroom more of a place to do the building behind me would be where the current maintenance garage is, I think that was where the welding and metals equipment was in the woodshop that we have right now is a tiny little representation of what it used to be.

With this information, our interest was piqued. We wanted to see what remained of the woodshop in person. So we arranged a meeting with Alex Rawson, the last teacher still actively using what’s left to the woodshop.

We have just entered what remains of the woodshop

The small woodshop holds a large cabinet of tools directly to our right and a small array of work tables scattered close by, the walls are lined with various large pieces of equipment and the back wall is littered with spare planks and half finished projects. The floor is concrete and the walls and ceiling have begun to show there wear. Rawson enters close behind us.

Alex Rawson:

So how often do you end up using the woodshop in your physics classes?

So I probably use the woodshop for at least one unit every year, sometimes to the the nice thing about physics is that when I’m talking about problem solving, and I’m talking about task in physics that’s quite tangible. Then when we go down to the woodshop I can get them to apply those concepts of problem solving planning. Calculating measuring precision accuracy. All those pieces and then it applies into the woodshop.


At this point we had learned some background information and we had been inside the woodshop. However, we still felt we lacked information. With many questions still left unanswered we set up one last interview, Steve Skilton, the last remaining teacher in the industrial arts department when it was terminated years ago.

Mr. Skilton?

Steve Skilton:

We are three from journalism class.

Oh great

And we would love to talk to you a little bit about the woodshop.

Finally, we sit down to answer our burning questions.

Hey guys what are you doing

Filming a podcast.

Oh, I apologize. Okay, here you go. I thought you were one of the kids. There was four kids in Yeah. How you doing, buddy?

After we fought off Pratt, of course.

When you worked here, how many years did you work here again, what was your running time here?

Steve Skilton:
I started teaching here at Harwood in September of 1978. At that time, I came here I was in my third year of teaching. *beeeeep* Ah the bell. I had taught over in Williamstown high school for a couple years. And an opening came up here at Harwood and I applied for it and got the job. At that time, we had four full time teachers in the program. This was regarded as perhaps one of the best industrial arts or tech ed programs in the entire state of Vermont. We had three full classrooms downstairs. The woodshop, which I understand is now been cut in part by the weight room was perhaps one of the best wood shops in the entire state. We had a drafting room, which is now the weight room that was taken away from us. At some point in time, I don’t remember the specifics without even consulting with me I was the department had at that time. So sometime between 2000 to 2014 When I retired, and then the metal shop, which of course is on the other end of the school. We did small engine repair and one time we had automotive classes in there machine shop welding. So we had four full time guys going we had a very comprehensive Middle School Program, where the mis-middle school kids came in and elected two of I think four or five different electives. To take the other half they would be in what was called Home Ec at that time, that program has also been eliminated. Unfortunately,

as the pieces of history continued to fall into place, our final unanswered question burned on our minds. Before this plays out, let’s remember what we have learned so far.

Brian Wagner:
Remember that our industrial arts teacher Steve Skilton retired in he’d been here for decades. And at that point, they decided the administration, the previous administration, decided not to fill that position with another industrial arts teacher.

Okay, let’s continue.

Steve Skilton:
One little sad sights. You know, when the kids we used to everybody would go in the auditorium, you’re starting to sign up for courses, department heads would talk about what the different courses were. And this is what you need to be thinking about for the next year. So the year that I retired, I actually didn’t go there was another teacher covered. I didn’t go to that assembly. So the kids are looking through the program of studies and see that there’s no tech ed industrial arts courses anymore. They had some STEM courses they put in place. And when I retired, there were actually two people in my department and they just simply eliminated me to save money. We’re not going to replace you. We’re just going to eliminate the program. So one of the students put their hands up, said to the administrator upfront, there’s no tech ed courses next year, what’s going on? And the answer that the administrator gave the kids was that these courses are no longer relevant. We don’t need them here. That’s what the administration told the kids.

Thus, the truth was revealed. With the sad departure of the final teacher residing in the industrial art swing, the woodshop and all of its supporting classrooms and shops were closed down. Though some teachers such as Wagner and Alex Ross and still use the wing to an extent, unless big changes are made. The wing will remain to be what it was reduced two years ago, a piece of history. This has been hidden Harwood. Thanks for listening