Monday, September 04, 2000

Tech center undergoes changes

Renovations proceed at D. Russel Lee

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD TWP. — Students returning to the D. Russel Lee Career/Technology Center are finding old spaces being used for new programs as workers complete a renovation of parts of the building.

        Gone is the graphics communications lab, replaced by a commercial art program. In the lab space is now a teacher workroom and of fices, classrooms and an assessment lab. Replacing a criminal justice area is a student service complex that includes guidance counselors, special-ed classrooms and conference rooms.

        It's all part of three-phase renovation project begun two years ago.

        In phase one, completed a year ago, one wing of the school was renovated, plumbing was modernized, roofs were repaired and computer networking was upgraded. About $994,000 was spent, said Wayne Bethel, treasurer of the Butler County Joint Vocational School District.

        The renovation that will be finished in the next two weeks is part of the third phase, a $500,000 upgrade of outdated labs, begun when classes let out last spring. Included is a new media center with a 14-seat computer lab. Parking has been reconfigured and a loop created to separate bus traffic from student traffic.

        Other ways are being studied to make it easier and safer to enter off Ohio 4. Some ideas include a continued push to have a traffic light installed at the school's entrance, and a possible realignment of the school's entrance farther south.

        “There's a lot of energy and excitement here,” said Bob Thompson, the school's new principal. “Our students get the skills, the knowledge they need to start their trade or profession. They naturally see how things are put together. At the end of the day they can say, "This is what I did, what I made.'”

        The 600 high school students can choose from two dozen programs. They come from every school district in Butler County except Hamilton, which runs its own vocational program.

        The second phase, estimated at $7.1 million, is perhaps the most ambitious. It was originally scheduled to open this month, but has been pushed back to next spring because of weather, design, drainage issues.

        This phase expands the school by 58,000 square feet and will house a public safety program. A laser firing range, skid pad for the driving course, an expanded forensics lab and a physical education training area are part of the new wing, which also will house classrooms and the nursing program.

        It is being paid for through the sale of bonds totaling $4.5 million, a state-approved, $2.5 million interest-free loan, and the general fund, Mr. Bethel said. The school is expecting to receive another $1 million interest-free loan soon.


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