EACS creating career, technical center

Tim Wiegand is executive director of EACS’ Career, Alternative & Technical Education program. He is pointing to where the new machine shop will be built. The renovated school is planned to open for the 2020-21 school year. (Cindy Larson)

By Cindy Larson

Changes and improvements at East Allen County Schools just keep coming.

By this time next year, a new Career and Technical Center should be open in what once was Meadowbrook Elementary, 1065 Woodmere Drive, New Haven. The renovated building also will house the EACS Alternative School.

Tim Wiegand is executive director of EACS’ Career, Alternative & Technical Education program. Renovations haven’t started on the building yet, but the project is supposed to be ready for students at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

When completed, the Alternative School plus six programs will all be under one roof. The programs are:

  • Construction trades
  • Automation and robotics
  • Precision machining
  • Pharmacy technology
  • Health science
  • Cybersecurity

”This building is still in good shape,” Wiegand said. “We wanted a place for a career center.”

It also has space to grow.

And as a bonus EACS will provide transportation from any of its high schools to the career center and back. The career programs are for juniors and seniors.

Careful planning went into determining what classes were needed. “This program is specifically designed to fit the workforce needs of this area,” Wiegand said.

“All these programs are filling a workforce now that is really difficult to fill,” he said.

The result is that these students can graduate from high school with enough experience to get an entry level job in their field that, with experience and perhaps some more post-high school training, will lead them into a high-paying, high-demand field without the expense of a four-year degree.

”The idea is to give kids options,” he said.

This is the first year for the Alternative School to be in this school, which last year was the New Haven Intermediate School.

While some of the ninth- through 12th-graders are in the Alternative School because they have been expelled, Wiegand said the “vast majority of kids want to come here.” This year the school has almost 100 students.

The curriculum is primarily online, with teachers present in classrooms to help if need be. Since it’s online, they can move as fast through the courses as they want to. He hopes the Alternative School students will see the career programs and be inspired to try some. “I love seeing those kids take ownership of their lives,” he said.

The base bid for renovations to the school is estimated to be $3.95 million. Bids should arrive in September and construction could start in October.

A new machine shop, estimated to be 2,000 to 3,000 square feet, is the only new construction. However the classrooms will be renovated for each program so there is a classroom side and a lab side. The gym will be converted into a construction trade shop. The nursing lab will simulate a hospital or nursing home, with several beds.

A pharmacy tech lab will prepare students for working in a drugstore, hospital or compounding pharmacy. And no, the school does not use real drugs.

With all the equipment, especially for the construction trades, “safety is always going to be a priority,” Wiegand said.

A machine shop will be built in this grassy patch at the old Meadowbrook School, which was New Haven Intermediate School last year. The entire school will house the EACS Career, Technical and Alternative Education program beginning in the 2020-21 school year. (Cindy Larson)

EACS has career programs now, but they are piecemeal. Construction trades classes meet at the Association of Builders and Contractors facility now. The automation and robotics classes are temporarily housed at East Allen University. Both will move into the new career center by the next school year.

Vincennes University is donating $400,000 in equipment for the automation and robotics program as it works to develop relationships to foster trades within the state.

And finally, the career center will work with students on honing skills to make them employable. “What I’m hearing is ‘we can’t get kids in here to show up to work,’” Wiegland said. So in addition to building employable skills, students will learn about punctuality, appropriate dress, how to look someone in the eye and shake their hand, and all the other intangible skills that can make the difference between getting and not getting a job.