TORRANCE, Calif. — A school in Torrance has lost nearly half of its students since the pandemic began.

Just when they thought they’d figured out a way through, an additional problem popped up.

What You Need To Know

  • The Southern California Regional Occupational Center is a technical school for adults and high school students

  • This semester the school cannot offer any bus transportation due to a lack of drivers

  • Enrollment at SoCal ROC has dropped since the pandemic began

  • Some students are willing to endure rush-hour traffic after sitting through their regular high school classes to attend

Long after the last bell rings, El Segundo High School senior Alencia Calderon gets on the highway and endures rush-hour traffic to get to her favorite class.

“They don’t have anything like this at my high school. Actually, this is more hands-on than anything at my school. That’s why I love it so much,” said Calderon.

The long drive to the Southern California Regional Occupational Center is partially why Calderon and her carpool mate, Amanda Nguyen, also a senior at El Segundo High School, are sometimes the last ones seated in the evening medical assisting course.

Calderon wants to go into nursing and so this class she’s taking starts her on that path.

This isn’t her first class at the technical school, but rather her first in a while. The pandemic forced her to take a break from SoCal ROC. It did not, however, dampen her passion.

“Actually, it makes me want to do it more the fact that people need nurses, especially right now because of COVID. They’re at an all-time high right now,” said Calderon.

When Calderon started back at SoCal ROC, there was one enormous difference: no buses at all this semester because of a lack of drivers.

Therefore, it’s up to Calderon and Nguyen — as well as countless other students — to get themselves from one school to the other.

“Kind of every day we have to figure out who’s taking us. It’s not really like a fixed schedule, so we kind of just have to figure out like day by day,” said Nguyen.

The school caters to both adults and high school-aged students. Without the reliable transportation enrollment has dropped, especially among the high school set.

“These high school students shouldn’t have to go to those lengths in order to get here to benefit from a program that’s here for them,” said Dr. Atlas Helaire, superintendent of SoCal ROC.

This is a school that avoided closure when remote learning was the only option. Now the problem of attracting and keeping students is back.

Calderon’s teacher, Melissa Moore, squeaked by this semester with just enough students to stay on full time.

“It’s pedal to the metal right now. It’s nose to the grind, so to speak, and that’s OK. Again, I’m feeling very blessed that I have this opportunity to work and get benefits,” said Moore.

Calderon is going the extra mile literally, with college on the horizon.

“I love it. It’s like my dream to become a nurse, so this is really getting me ahead,” said Calderon.

California Assembly Bill 99 provided $10 million to the school, which was spread out over several years. This has helped them build a nice savings, buying them time to address this issue.