Boulder Valley is phasing out its long-running cosmetology programs to make room for other classes as the school district updates its career and technical education offerings.
The three programs the district is eliminating are hair styling, esthetics and nail technician. The nail technician class won’t be offered after this school year, with current students able to take the state licensing exam at the end of the year. Next year will be the last year for the esthetics program, while hair styling will end in two years.
Career and Technical Education Director Arlie Huffman said the district decided to end the cosmetology programs based on local and state workforce data that showed limited demand for those jobs.
“There’s an ongoing need, but it’s a low level need,” he said.
He said enrollment numbers weren’t a factor in the decision. About 75 students are enrolled in cosmetology programs this school year. But, he added, limited funding means the district needs to make tough choices.
“We’re not in an environment where we can put everything everywhere,” he said. “We are forced to make super difficult decisions, and this is one of them.”
Current students, however, say the programs are valuable and set students up for well paying jobs after high school graduation.
Emma Barwick, a senior at Monarch who spoke at a recent school board meeting to advocate for the program, said she never really fit in at school until she found the esthetics program.
“I love it,” she said. “I’ve learned more to help me in life from this program than in any other classroom. This class gave me a drive in life to want to be successful. It helped me find a purpose.”
She said she wants to study integrative physiology in college, then go to nursing school to become a nurse practitioner specializing in skin. She added that it’s important to give students the opportunity to earn cosmetology certificates in high school, especially given the high cost of most beauty schools.
“These programs are so important,” she said. “We get a great education. I know from this class this industry is genuinely something I want to be in forever.”
Presley Auman, another senior, told the school board that esthetics was the first class to spark her interest and has taught her how to work with all different types of people. She added that she likes that it’s a woman-run industry.
“It has shown me that I’m smart, that I can do it, that I can be independent as a woman,” she said at the board meeting. “I would really, really hate for that program to go. I really love it. It’s a great opportunity for so many people.”
The district is evaluating what’s offered at the Boulder Technical Education Center as part of its plan to expand access to career and technical education classes.
That plan includes remodeling the Technical Education Center, as well as adding space at middle and high schools for technical education programs, through the $350 million capital construction bond issue approved by voters in 2022.
The district recently started the design process for the Technical Education Center, which includes looking at which programs could be added or expanded.
While final decisions haven’t been made yet, one new program that’s starting in the fall is natural resources. Plans include using the nearby Sombrero Marsh area to teach students about forestry, wildlife and natural resource conservation and management.
A second program starting in the fall is culinary arts, with students using a new teaching kitchen that’s being added to the district’s central kitchen. Students attend a two-year ProStart culinary program to prepare for a youth apprenticeship, as well as completing coursework in food science through Metropolitan State University.
“We want to find experiences for students to learn where their passions are,” Huffman said.