The Arlington school district’s Career and Technical Center won’t open until August 2017, but the district is already working out details including front office leadership and a daily bell schedule. Preparing to accommodate 4,800 high school students every two days is no simple task, administrators say.
It’s one of more than 50 construction and renovation projects districtwide that will be underway this fall. In May 2014, district voters approved a $663.1 million bond program to fund construction, as well as transportation, technology, fine arts and security upgrades. Two new elementary schools in the package — Peach Elementary in north Arlington on Baird Farm Road and McNutt Elementary at Volunteer Drive and Center Street, near Workman Junior High — are set to open in August. Still more projects, such as a new districtwide fine arts center, remain in the planning stages.
In addition to the new elementary schools opening this fall, the district will open six 77,704-square-foot multipurpose activities centers, one at each traditional high school.
“If people just drive around, in just about any neighborhood, they’ll see something going on,” said Kelly Horn, who oversees construction as the district’s executive director of facility services.
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The Career and Technical Center will be at 2101 Browning Drive, site of the former Hutcheson Junior High. It was included in the bond program to give more students access to a wide variety of career and technical education programs. Construction is scheduled to be finished by next summer at an estimated cost of no more than $41 million.
Juniors and seniors from the district’s six high schools will attend classes in the 169,800-square-foot building. The programs planned include culinary/hospitality, automotive, welding, information technology and cosmetology, as well as the district’s successful fire academy, which is a partnership with Tarrant County College and the Arlington Fire Department.
Arlington trustees appointed Ginger Polster principal of the career tech center at their meeting Thursday. Polster, a former Arlington High agriculture science teacher and Hill Elementary assistant principal, has been the district’s career and technical education coordinator since 2014.
The new center “will bridge the gap for academics, employability and technical skills that prepare our students for leadership roles in the working world,” Polster told the board. “By combining careful planning with real-world experiences, students will be prepared to take the next step in life after graduating from Arlington ISD. Our students will excel.”
In addition to a committee working on the center’s bell schedule, others have been considering transportation, marketing, application processes,l and staff and teacher recruitment, Chief Academic Officer Steven Wurtz told trustees June 9. The district is also discussing continued and new partnerships with TCC, he said.
“As of now, we can say we are on schedule to successfully open the center in August of 2017,” Wurtz said.
Also set to open in fall 2017 is the district’s 23,000-square-foot agricultural science center, at 3210 W. Pioneer Parkway in Dalworthington Gardens. Trustees took the next step in the design phase of that project Thursday when they approved initial designs from VLK Architects.
The board added funds for energy-saving features such as wind and solar power. The project could cost $3.9 million, about $2 million more than the original estimate. The extra money can be covered with available bond funds, administrators said.
Currently, only Arlington and Martin high schools have agriculture programs. Students rely on agreements with community members to provide living quarters for their animals. The new building will include two classrooms, a metal fabrication laboratory and space for goats, sheep and cattle to live and exercise. There also is room for expansion to add turf management and crop production programs.
A lawsuit filed by a neighboring business owner who was concerned about odors and noise from the ag science center has been dismissed. Officials have said construction plans include ways to mitigate the center’s impact on the area. The lawsuit didn’t slow the planning process, said Cindy Powell, the district’s chief financial officer.
Powell said plans are on schedule for a districtwide fine arts center, though announcement of a site won’t come until at least August. An architect hasn’t been chosen despite an April deadline for interested firms to submit their qualifications.
If people just drive around, in just about any neighborhood, they’ll see something going on.
Kelly Horn, Arlington school district executive director of facility services
Officials continue to explore partnerships with public and private entities for the fine arts center, which is expected to cost about $32 million for construction and design.
“We do have land if we end up building it on our own,” district spokeswoman Leslie Johnston said, adding that the district wants to “explore all the possibilities to make sure we get the best program for the community and our students.”
Powell said the district has some leeway to finish the building by its fall 2018 projected completion date because classes don’t have to be held there the day school starts. The center will include a 2,500-seat auditorium, an instrument repair center, classroom space and gallery space.
In addition to the elementary schools opening this fall, the district will open six 77,704-square-foot multipurpose activities centers, one at each traditional high school. A 16-classroom addition at Workman Junior High will also open. Other projects set for construction kickoff this fall include repairs and updates at a variety of campuses, as well as new additions like STEM labs and security vestibules at elementary school campuses. A full list of bond projects is available at www.aisd.net.