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Industry-worthy facilities to benefit Nevada County students

Powered by a mix of taxpayer-approved Measure B funds, state grants, and local matching dollars, facility upgrades are well underway for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs at Nevada Union, Bear River and Silver Springs high schools.

These projects will benefit the Building Construction Trades, Culinary Arts and Agriculture programs.​ ​The goal is for Nevada County teens to hone their work skills and pursue exciting, lucrative jobs outside the traditional college route.

Officials estimate that improvements to Bear River and Nevada Union’s Ag facilities will be finished this winter. NU Culinary is slated to complete its modernization in summer of 2021, with the new Building Construction Trades program scheduled to finish shortly after.



According to Aurora Thompson, the Nevada Joint Union High School District’s Director of CTE and State/Federal Programs, recently approved Career Technical Education Facility Program grants totaling $3,846,351 will offset Measure B bond dollars.

“The process of choosing which facility projects to prioritize took place over years and was a balance of determining which facilities reflected the greatest need based on building and equipment age and safety factors,” she said. “Local industry demand also played a role.”



As for the establishment of a Building Construction Trades pathway, Thompson explained that it had been years since a program was offered that aligned with residential and commercial construction. The previous facility, on Park Avenue in Grass Valley, was built in 1933 and was in a state of disrepair.

Rich Veale — executive chef for Folsom’s Sutter Street Steakhouse, who supported the district’s grant-writing process — did not mince words about the need for modern learning environments.

“Ag hasn’t been updated to be safe for all students, faculty and the community since it was originally built in the 60s,” he explained. “In its current state, it is no longer adequate to offer classes and promote a quality educational program. Culinary has limited capacity, and substantially outdated equipment and facilities. Combined, these factors are not conducive to meet the high demand and exacting standards for today’s professional food service industry.”

Jeff Hansen, president and general manager of Hansen Bros. Enterprises, said there is a high demand for skilled students entering the trades in Nevada County. He said the community has felt the loss of the old Regional Occupational Program (ROP) and is pushing for more viable routes to trade careers, emphasizing that not all high school students need to be college bound.

“We were pushing for student interaction with the trades, like the old ROP program,” said Bob Zucca, co-owner of Weiss Landscaping and a board member of the Nevada County Contractors’ Association. “It all worked together. We had some pretty big concerns about how the school could get these projects through. It just started gathering steam. … By having that shop, when the kids come to us, we’re not teaching them from square one. Kids want to be in the shop, not with their head in a book the entire time.”

MAKING IT WORK

Officials with the Nevada Joint Union High School District said they’ve been working hard to complement Measure B and stretch dollars. Community leaders involved with the project voiced their​ ​approval of the district’s performance.

“In the past several CTE Advisory Committee meetings, district management has provided clear and detailed information about initial project plans and then progress status reports,” said Executive ​Dean Stephanie Ortiz of Sierra College’s Nevada County Campus. “Committee members were encouraged to ask questions and​ ​provide feedback. Similarly during a community meeting Superintendent (Brett) McFadden and​ ​staff provided updates. These meeting venues were essential means to ‘get the word out’ and,​ ​in my opinion, showed responsiveness to community interest in how the bond monies are being​ ​spent.”

Similarly, the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee has been overseeing all of the facility projects since inception and has also provided valuable feedback and been a sounding board for the district throughout.

“For me and the Nevada County Contractors’ Association, it feels like we’re working with a public sector who does what they say they’re going to do,” said Zucca of the association board. “A lot of these projects went to local contractors. That’s the true stewardship of the bond money. Every time a dollar is spent here, that’s just good stewardship. The district reached out to stakeholders to see what was needed and not needed. That really speaks to the care for the taxpayer. We know that the administration cared. They were asking, we were participating. It was great.”

Veale, the executive chef, praised the projects.

“As an NU grad, I would have loved the ability to access such facilities during my time,” ​Veale said. “I’m immensely proud to know the community and faculty have come together to, not only evaluate the needs of our communities, but simultaneously promote lifelong learning and growth with their students.”

Source: Nevada Joint Union High School District


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