Region 9 may get new programs, addition

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MEXICO – Area vocational students may be able to sign up for automotive technology or early childhood education as soon as next year, according to the local vocational school board.

The Region 9 School of Applied Technology board met Wednesday night with the region’s three district superintendents and an architect to discuss which new programs may be added and how large a renovation or building project for the school should be planned.

The group is to meet again Friday to further discuss the direction of vocational school programming and to refine building costs.

Although many on the board and administrators had wanted to offer culinary arts because of the popularity among students, introducing that program was not a top priority.

SAD 43 Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said outfitting such a program is very expensive and jobs that students may get after completing the program are low paying.

Students had shown a high desire for the electrical trades, too, but the consensus of board members and superintendents is that a program geared toward girls was preferable in a school that was largely geared toward trades traditionally taken by boys.

“Early childhood might attract a different group of students,” said Hodgkin.

SAD 21 Superintendent Tom Ward said he believed the automotive and early childhood programs would be of the most service to the community.

The electrical trades haven’t been entirely ruled out. Some want to look at the possibility of integrating electrical trades into the building trades program.

Region 9 Director David Driscoll said programs are regularly evaluated. If one fails to meet the needs of students, then another may be offered.

The group also discussed the most recent floor plans created by Jim Reuter of the Bethel firm of Smith Reuter and Lull.

A rough estimate for building an addition and to renovate the existing space has come in at about $5 million. Besides building an addition, the project would provide enough space for the truck driving classroom now housed in a trailer, and would allow students in a modular classroom to return to the building.

Plans call for adding 17,000 square feet to the existing 28,800 square feet.

The Region 9 board is expected to act on the renovation project and the program additions at its April 11 meeting.

The superintendents are expected to be included in all future discussions of the building and programming projects.

Also participating Wednesday night was SAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy.

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