More space benefit of new career, tech building

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Forest Park High School sophomore Dylan Bays, right, prepares a joint for welding with the help of senior David Durcholz in the new technology wing at the school in Ferdinand on Thursday. 

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — When the career and technical education students at Forest Park Junior-Senior High School returned to class last fall, they were greeted by a new, larger space — a career and tech building.

Gone were the days of having to walk outside to get to the building that housed agriculture classes. Gone were the days of welding students having to wait to use machines. And gone were the days of unreliable lab equipment in the classrooms. It’s made all the difference.

“Before, if I had two hot plates plugged in anywhere in the room, I’d blow a breaker,” said agriculture teacher Annette Applegate. “Now I can have six.”

In the welding shop, each student now has his or her own machine to work with, leading to better results and more hands-on practice.

“You get a lot more welding time,” said Trevor Horney, a sophomore and second-year welding student. “It’s just an all-around good shop.”

In the woodworking and engineering classes, too, students find they’re getting more hands-on experience with the variety of machines Forest Park has, including a laser engraver and a CNC — computer numerical control — machine that is popular in professional manufacturing.

Forest Park High School freshman Brook Haug, left, watches as sophomore Spenser Wolf and senior Zach Lueken test their Rube Goldberg machine, which is designed to complete a simple task in a complicated way, in the new career and tech building at the school in Ferdinand on Thursday.

Even before the renovation, Forest Park’s career and technical education staff aimed to provide quality hands-on experiences for the students, and they succeeded. The school’s Future Farmers of America program is one of the top 25 in Indiana, and the welding students repeatedly place in competitions. The hands-on experiences are a highlight of the engineering program, too.

“Instead of learning how something works or why it works, we get to work with it and see it,” said senior Cade Prechtel.

Prechtel has taken most of the engineering classes the school offers and plans to pursue a career in engineering.

The new space is already taking strong programs and making them even stronger. Before, Prechtel said, mostly upperclassmen used the CNC router and laser engraver, but this year the upperclassmen were able to teach the underclassmen to use them.

In agriculture classes, students are doing more labs and more complicated labs. With the added space, students can leave labs set up without having to worry about other classes bumping into their work, allowing for labs that take longer. Multiple labs can now run at the same time, too, so one class doesn’t have to wait until another finishes to start a lab.

The upgraded facility seems to be having exactly the effect administrators and the school board hoped it would when they signed off on the 19,000-square-foot, roughly $4.5 million project. Prior to the project, many of the facilities hadn’t been significantly renovated since the 1970s, making it difficult for staff to run 21st century programs that rely heavily on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and hands-on experiences that prepare students for the workforce. The need for workforce readiness in high school and the plethora of job opportunities available locally in manufacturing is part of what prompted the renovation.

“We want to make sure our students are prepared for that,” Principal Jamie Pund said.




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