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LA QUINTA, CALIF. — On March 26, professor William Clarke expects to learn if his two-year effort to build an ambitious mold-making curriculum at one Southern California high school will get the money it needs to proceed.

Officials of Fontana School District in eastern Los Angeles are to vote Wednesday at what one interested observer — D-M-E Co. regional sales manager Scott Whisler — terms a ``make-or-break meeting.''

What is at stake is a California Partnership Academy Planning Grant — seed money to establish an Applied Technology Academy. Whisler said such academies already exist for other disciplines, but he believes this would be the first ATA for a manual trade like mold making.

The blueprint calls for creating a four-year program at Fontana High School that would focus on machine tool technology or computer-aided design and manufacturing. It would mix the disciplines of science, math and English with computer and machine-shop training in the educational equivalent of a manufacturing cell.

The ATA would select 30 high school freshmen to work alongside 20 honor-level students, to cross-fertilize skills and interests. Freshmen and sophomores would take basic courses, but with a focus on those most applicable to mold making and metalworking. Juniors in the program would participate in internship and mentoring programs, and seniors would receive on-site apprenticeship training in mold-making plants.

Whisler provided an update on the project at the recent SPI Molders & Moldmakers conference in La Quinta.

He explained that it calls for one teacher each for science, math, English and machine shop to be located near one another to facilitate interaction and help students apply what they learn to mold making in a practical, real-world approach.

``Everything is in place and ready to go,'' he said in a March 13 interview in La Quinta.

Now all that is needed is some money to put the plan into action. Clarke, now a professor at San Bernardino Valley College and its department head for manufacturing technology, could not be reached for comment prior to deadline. But, by all accounts, his fingers will be crossed March 26.

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