District Debuts ‘Showpiece’ Facility

From last summer’s ceremonial groundbreaking where the state of the art new Career and Technology Center now stands are School Board Chairwoman Beth Reid, Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green, District 4 Board member Annie McDaniel, District 2 Board member Paula Hartman, State Sen. Creighton Coleman (rear), District 3 Board member Henry Miller, former District 5 Board member Bobby Cunningham and District 6 Board member William Frick.

From last summer’s ceremonial groundbreaking where the state of the art new Career and Technology Center now stands are School Board Chairwoman Beth Reid, Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green, District 4 Board member Annie McDaniel, District 2 Board member Paula Hartman, State Sen. Creighton Coleman (rear), District 3 Board member Henry Miller, former District 5 Board member Bobby Cunningham and District 6 Board member William Frick.

Ribbon Cutting, Tours at New Career Center Wednesday

WINNSBORO – A little more than a year after the ceremonial first shovels of dirt were pitched out of the ground on the Highway 321 Bypass on a sliver of land nestled between Fairfield Central High School and Fairfield Middle School, the District’s new showpiece is undergoing its final finishing touches. And on Wednesday, the District will officially cut the ribbon and welcome the public in to see for themselves Fairfield County’s new Career and Technology Center.

“We’re super excited,” Chris Dinkins, Director of the facility, said. “It’s hard to believe we’re here at this point. I’ve only been here a couple of years, but I know there are a lot of people who have really been pushing for this for a long time.”

Indeed, Dinkins, who took over the reins at the aging facility on Highway 321 Business in 2012, came on board at just the right time – at just about the same time that then interim Superintendent David Eubanks slowly but surely convinced the School Board that they should and could build a new career center.

The outgoing facility, built in the 1960s, has certainly outlived its usefulness as career center in the rapidly changing technological world of the 21st century. With the new facility, the District aims to prepare students for careers of the future, while still arming them with the kind of practical skills that never go out of style.

“It’s hard to quantify what this means for the District’s progress, since for the last several years we have been making do with what we had,” Dinkins said. “Now, we have all the technology available and we’re going to have to think beyond where we have been thinking. Now we can really prepare students to compete in the workforce right out of school, or if they are going to continue their education at a two-year or four-year college, we can have them ready for that as well.”

Dr. J.R. Green, Superintendent, said the perception of career centers has changed over the years, and the new facility allows the Fairfield County School District to change along with it.

“Traditionally, career centers have been for students not on track for four-year colleges,” Green said. “Now, there will be opportunities for all students.”

Two of those first such opportunities offered at the new facility include the heady subjects of Project Lead the Way Biomedical Science and Engineering.

“Engineering is a tough field,” Dinkins said. “These are people who design the next space shuttle or redesign car engines to make them smaller and more efficient. We want to get students engaged, get them thinking creatively so they can be prepared.”

The new facility was designed for its space to be flexible, so as technology evolves, so can the courses. Dinkins said he hopes to add more Project Lead the Way courses in the coming years, while courses in clean energy may also be on the horizon.

The traditional programs will also be there, Dinkins and Green said, including masonry, welding, construction, electricity and horticulture, among others.

“Those programs aren’t going away,” Dinkins said, “because those jobs aren’t going away.”

The final price for the building came in at approximately $14.9 million, Green said, with the equipment and fixtures taking that up to around $17.5 million. And it was money well spent, he said.

“This is a very impressive facility,” Green said. “State of the art. Brownstone and MBAJ did a great job designing it, and MB Kahn did an excellent job of meeting their construction deadlines. This is a cutting-edge facility.”

The public can come see it for themselves Wednesday. The official ribbon cutting ceremony is at 4 p.m., with tours of the facility from 4:30 – 7 p.m.

 

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