Earlier this year, Ariana Lopez stood in a crowded Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education meeting room to share how the local school district’s vocational training program impacted her.

At the time, the recent alumna was urging board members to figure out a way to keep the district’s popular Regional Occupational Program intact.

But as the school system transitions away from its ROP offerings to meet updated state standards for career technical education (CTE), the school board is tasked with creating new pathways to give students like Lopez exposure to a variety of fields and skills they can use after they finish high school.

“In order for students to succeed after graduating,” a district report reads, “our schools need to prepare them for the ever-changing world of work, which includes not just college readiness but also career readiness.”

The school board will mull the future of career technical education during its meeting Thursday evening at SMMUSD headquarters, 1651 16th St.

The discussion follows the elimination of ROP, which for more than 30 years offered students courses in disciplines like automotive technology and retail marketing as well as dance, theater, photography and digital design and business management. More than 850 high school students in SMMUSD were involved in ROP last year, according to the district.

District staffers are expected to discuss the current status of career technical education and what is planned for students in the future.

The board is also expected to review the impact of changes in state aid with the ongoing implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula. Staffers will identify potential new funding sources and assess “how the state is looking to include CTE outcomes in metrics for districts, post-secondary articulations and concurrent options and a timeline for retooling the CTE programs,” the district report reads.

Earlier this year, the district announced that it would likely apply for grant funding to support its vocational and training programs. For example, money could come from the federal Perkins program and would be used for classes that are recognized by the state as fitting into the new pathway.

The previous ROP budget of roughly $900,000 was covering 14 instructors, six of whom were full-time employees, as well as two support staff, a counselor and equipment.

It remains unclear how funding changes will impact staffing for career technical education in the future.

Patti Braun, president emeritus of the district PTA council, said earlier this year that she had received numerous anecdotal emails from students and parents about the beloved ROP program.

“These are the classes that get them out of bed, that gave them a new love of business, that gave them a wonderful space to create art, that launched them into a career they hadn’t thought of,” she said.

The public portion of the board meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. For the full agenda, visit www.smmusd.org/board/meetings.html.

jeff@www.smdp.com