Waterloo School board approves Waterloo career center expansion - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo School board approves Waterloo career center expansion

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Waterloo Schools is expanding its Career Center to offer four new career programs next fall.

The Waterloo School Board voted unanimously Monday night to approve a plan to move forward with bids on a nearly $14 mil. remodel and expansion at the Waterloo Career center, which is housed inside Central Middle School. 

The new programs will include: Digital Interactive Media, Marketing Management, Web Programming & Development, and one more program which has yet to be determined.

Currently, the career center offer five programs. The center gives high school students the opportunity to learn technical and hands-on experience in the fields of Nursing, Digital Graphics, Advanced Manufacturing, Early Childhood Education and Informational Technology-Networking.

This renovation will improve current programs such as the Nursing Assistant program.

"You know we have a really wonderful lab space here now, and classroom space, but our next space will be even a little larger," said Dr. Doreen Mingo of the Career Center's Nursing Assistant Program. "It will incorporate a bigger bathroom and a shower stall so we can actually take students in and simulate giving showers and baths to patients."

Previously, the school had proposed a $35 mil bond, which would be used for the career center. Voters rejected the Waterloo School bond referendum back in February 2016. 

"We did hear from our community, they loved the concept, but not the price tag of that," said Waterloo School Superintendent Jane Lindaman. "So at that point in time, we adjusted the scope of the project, we adjusted the pace of the project, and decided to move forward as we could on the money that we had available. 

In Fall 2016, Waterloo Schools launched the first two programs. This fall, they expanded to add three more. 

"We look at occupational forecasts, what are the hot careers that are out there that are really marketable right now," said Superintendent Lindaman. "We look at the space available, we look at staff members that we might have or be able to secure to teach the programs."

According to Waterloo Schools, the career center renovation and expansion will be paid for with existing district funds available through the local option sales tax finding stream (SAVE). 

"We had always said that we had money to contribute to the project," said Superintendent Lindaman. "What we were going to bond against was not the full cost of the program-we were going to contribute. So we're just using the money that we had planned to contribute. The fact that we slowed down the pace, and changed the scope actually allows money to be available. Instead, of bringing 30 programs by 2018, we're looking at 15-16 programs by the fall of 2020."  

Waterloo Schools say they're currently in the process with partnering with Cedar Valley businesses for future programs.  

"We're going out into the community and looking for business partners for the programs that we are bringing," said Superintendent Lindaman. "All of the programs we're bringing- there's a pretty great occupational forecast for these programs and so we're meeting with businesses and we're just overwhelmed by the response we're getting from businesses right here in the Cedar Valley."

The program is known to be just one of two in the state with an expansive offering of technical programs for students to get their hands on.

"Having kids experience things, and determining whether they want to do it-is really the name of the game here," said Superintendent Lindaman. "And finding out what you do want to do is just as important as finding out what you don't want to do. And they can do it in a low-stakes environment, where they're not getting one or two years of college and then deciding that's not what they want to do."

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