Members of the local Board of Education and other school officials have plenty of ideas for how to prepare students for life after graduation. What they need to figure out soon, though, is how they’re going to pay for it.

The long-term financial stability of the Santa Monica-Malibu school district’s career technical education program was at the center of the school board’s study session on the matter Dec. 10.

The topic has surfaced repeatedly in recent months as officials tweak the district’s popular Regional Occupational Program to meet new state standards for career-focused learning.

Officials made it clear during the discussion that they want to use ROP as a foundation for new offerings as they search for long-term funding sources.

“This is really the challenge,” said Evan Bartelheim, the district’s director of assessment. “We can’t do everything. We do have a limited amount of resources and limitations on how many electives we can offer.”

The district will receive some aid through the federal Perkins grant program, which has certain stipulations for career training courses, Bartelheim said.

SMMUSD is also applying for upwards of $1 million in funding through a state career technical education initiative, although the grant program is competitive and designed only for an 18-month period.

Funding could also be acquired through a $500-million adult education block grant program that will support career learning across the state.

Money could be used to support teachers’ training in specialized fields as well as equipment and other costs, officials said. And more must be done to connect the district with industry partners in the area, they said, not just for financial support but also for student internship opportunities.

“All you have to do is drive around the 8 square miles of Santa Monica,” said Terry Deloria, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services. “There’s just so much you can reach out to.”

The fields of information technology and health care are of particular interest to the district, which in the past has offered courses in subjects such as digital design, photography and film production as well as dance, theater, business management, marketing and auto mechanics. More than 850 high school students in SMMUSD were involved in ROP last year, according to the district.

Superintendent Sandra Lyon said the district must work to integrate its career technical education courses with other related programs, such as dual enrollment at Santa Monica College, the LA HI-TECH consortium and STEM programming through Project Lead The Way.

An advisory committee, which will include student, teacher and administrator representatives as well as industry professionals and other education officials, will meet in the coming months to help shape the future of the district’s career-focused offerings.

“So many people think, ‘What career can I take?’ and look at their parents or what’s on TV and think that’s all there is,” Bartelheim said. “It’s important that, really early on, students establish what they might want to do. … The research shows that the more students know about where they want to go and what they want to do in life, the more likely they are to stick with whatever post-secondary education they pursue.”

jeff@www.smdp.com