MEXICO – After more than four years in the planning, and a year or so in construction, the vocational school will open its new doors to students Aug. 27.

The school features bright colors, airy classrooms and shops, and 15,000 square feet more space for vocational and adult education classes. With the addition, the school is nearly three times larger.

The $4.9 million renovation and addition project is nearing its end. The entire school won’t be quite ready for the beginning of the school year, but enough is done to allow students to begin classes.

“It’s really overwhelming to see people’s positive reactions when they come in,” Region 9 Director Brenda Gammon said. “It was a real morale booster for everyone in Region 9 when the project was approved.”

The new space will allow all vocational programs to be held under one roof. Previously, two modular classrooms were needed. Offices are larger, the cafeteria and shops are larger and more modern, and the adult education program has more space for more programs.

The addition also allows the introduction of new vocational programs in automotive technology and early childhood development, and unassigned space for growth.

The project is a few weeks behind schedule because of weather and the number of change orders that occurred throughout the construction process, said Bob Zajechowski, superintendent of the project for general contractors Bowman Brothers of Newport.

The old section of the school, particularly, needed far more wiring and electrical upgrades than expected because of the amount of heavy machinery on the system. Wiring and plumbing are sufficient for the introduction of new programs, such as culinary arts, as well.

“So many unforeseen things are found in a renovation,” he said.

But the classrooms are ready and the next two weeks will be devoted to work in the secondary part of the school. Because adult education begins a couple of weeks later, final work in that section has been put on hold.

The interior is bright and inviting, and the outside of the building is easier on the eye, too. The siding is a pale green. Entries have been changed to the side of the building, and the parking area expanded.

Gammon said an official open house to give people a chance to see how their money was spent will be set in early autumn.

In the meantime, students will be treated to a welcome back barbecue on Aug. 27 and Aug. 28.

Besides new programs, Region 9 is welcoming new teachers – Terri Downs in early childhood development, and a to-be-named automotive instructor. Carleton Dickey will become a full-time custodian and Kristy Harting, a part-time custodian.

Students will have hot meals served from the school’s kitchen on trays supplied by the SAD 21 food service program.

The cooperative education program was eliminated.

Many vocational programs have a few slots still available, Gammon said. Partner school districts can take up to two weeks into the school year to send additional students.

Each classroom will have technology to allow students and teachers to interact with the Internet during classes.

“The reaction has been so rewarding, particularly when people connected with Region 9 for years come into the building. The best is yet to come,” Gammon predicted.

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