The new $3.7 million ‘Tiger Paw Auto & Engineering Facility’ now gives Morse High School students the opportunity to work on cars and get hands-on experience. For the past seven years, auto repair instructor Leonardo Zarate has been teaching the automotive repair program in the classroom only.
The four-year project involved partially modernizing a 9,067-square-foot, one-story, wood-framed building, and constructing a new one-story, concrete masonry building measuring 6,855 square feet. The larger building features an auto disassembly area, instructional classrooms, a computer lab with 34 PC stations, an engineering design room, and tool/special equipment storage. The newer building features a paint booth, clean room, auto alignment and frame bays, student and faculty restrooms, faculty offices, and a mechanical/electrical room. Another enhancement staff and students are excited about: air conditioning. The new facility is the only building on campus that offers air conditioning.
The Morse High School auto body program provides career and technical education in the collision repair and refinishing career pathway within the transportation industry sector, including introduction to auto body, transportation technology, and auto body repair and refinishing.
“My students and I give a special thanks to our ex governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and our present Governor Jerry Brown and to the taxpayers of the State of California,” said Zarate. “We are also grateful to all the collision repair shops in San Diego and to my advisory board who every year kept their doors open for student internships.”
Each student now has access to the Introduction to Collision and Repair online curriculum, as well as an extensive library of I-CAR specialty training modules. “The new facility has everything one could ever imagine. There is a large instructional demonstration lab with two new lifts used for pre-vehicle inspections and estimating. This area is large enough to have an entire class of 32 students work safely,” said Greg Quirin, Program Specialist for the College, Career & Technical Education program.
In addition, Quirin said, “The demonstration lab houses the specialty tools and instruction materials. Across from the demonstration area, there are eight professional repair bays and one paint booth. The booth is state-of-the-art and designed for the environmentally-friendly waterborne paint products. It has a paint mixing room and two Becca gun-cleaning machines. The repair bays have stainless steel work benches with ample storage and a computer at each terminal. The computers in each bay have Mitchell estimating software and Indentifix repair information. Each bay is also equipped with a MATCO professional series tool box fully equipped with hundreds of hand tools, and a variety of auto body specialty tools. The tool boxes each have foam cutouts for each and every tool for inventory control. On the east end of the shop, there is a Jollift 103t frame rack and laser measuring system, as well as a Hunter DSP 600 alignment instrumentation, road force wheel balancer and tire machine.
“Several bays are equipped with mig-welders and Prospot welding equipment. The list goes on and on. The fact is, if you are a high school student enrolled in this program, you will be well- equipped with a plethora of resources and opportunities for a rewarding career in the auto collision industries,” said Quirin.
“Morse High School is the only auto body program in the San Diego Unified School District,” Quirin added. “In all of California, there are only three schools that are NATEF-certified auto collision and repair facilities. Our goal is to be the fourth NATEF training program in the state and to be the first high school in the state.”
The Sept. 27 open house and dedication included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and presentation of colors by Morse High School’s Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Also in attendance were representatives from the following sponsors: I-CAR, FinishMaster, Fix Auto Mission Valley, Kimball Midwest, PPG, Mitchell International, Sherwin Williams, West Coast Auto Wreckers, Fiberglass Evercoat, State Farm, SkillsUSA and the California Autobody Association.
“This new auto body program will have full support from these sponsors to assure the proper, up-to-date industry standards are being taught to the kids,” said Hilary Castro, manufacturers sales representative with Sherwin-Williams. “This school and the programs it offers to the kids are crucial to educate them not just about collision repair, but to show them their avenues of education in front of their eyes.”
Guest speakers at the event included Morse High School students from the auto body and engineering programs, Principal Harry Shelton, board member Sheila Jackson, and alumni and city councilman Tony Young.
In his speech, auto body student John Abad said, “Can you just imagine what kind of job offers us students can receive by just learning basic knowledge of automotive repair? Personally, being in the automotive business isn’t just going to be a job for me, it’s going to be my career that I want to have until the day I retire, because I know there’s always money to be made in this industry because as long as people buy cars, they are going to break and those people will be coming here to Morse Tiger Paw because we are the future technicians that are going to get the job done right the first time.”
Morse High School is a traditional high school that includes college, career and technical programs such as auto body, engineering and culinary. The delicious gourmet appetizers and desserts at the open house were prepared and provided by the culinary students.