The Lawrence school board voted unanimously tonight to locate its new College and Career Center at an industrial site near 31st and Haskell, alongside a new adult job training center being proposed by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
That decision followed a community meeting that was held last week at Lawrence High School where, Superintendent Rick Doll said, those who showed up expressed overwhelming support for the idea.
“The real reason we had the meeting last Monday night was to gauge public opinion on how they would handle the change in site location, and actually that wasn't even discussed,” Doll said. “Most of the conversations were good, lively discussions about programming and governance, what could it look like, what programs should be involved and who's going to do what.”
But officials conceded there are many details that still need to be worked out between the school district and the Chamber about how the combined technical education “campus” would be governed and what additional programs the Chamber plans to offer at its portion of the complex.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Chamber board president Doug Gaumer said after the meeting. “I would think you'd see something with a little more concreteness to it within four to six weeks.”
The school board had originally planned to build a 30,000-square-foot facility for career and technical education on property it already owns near Holcom Park, west of 25th and Iowa. The facility is expected to cost $6.5 million, money that was included in the $92.5 million bond issue that voters approved in April.
Since then, however, local business leaders have urged the district to consider the site at 31st and Haskell, currently owned by HiPer Industries, Inc., where they plan to develop a job training center for adults.
Under the new plan, the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Corporation will acquire the property from HiPer Industries, Inc. That group would then deed over to the school district a portion of the land on the northwest corner of the parcel to the school district for the public school portion of the complex.
Both the school district and the Economic Development Corporation then plan to contract with area community colleges and technical schools to offer courses at the new complex.
The school district has already decided on the programs it plans to offer. They will focus on allied health sciences, computer networking, commercial construction and machine technologies.
But plans for exactly what kinds of programs would be offered at the adult education center still haven't been worked out, and board member Randy Masten said that is a concern to him.
Board member Randy Masten said he still has concerns about the lack of detail in the arrangements between the school district and the adult education center.
“I'm completely in favor of being a good partner,” Masten said. “I'm not worried about it on our side. I'm worried about it on their side because they were very, very non-forthcoming with what they've got planned to actually do in that building.”
Gaumer said the Chamber and Economic Development Corporation haven't yet decided on the types of programming they plan to offer in their adult training center.
“The first step we had to undertake was to secure the property, and we're in the process of doing that,” Gaumer said. “We've been working concurrently with Patrick Kelly (the district's career and technical education director) and Dr. Doll in having preliminary discussions about the governance.”
Doll said all agreements between the school district and the adult education center would come in the form of contracts that the school board would have to approve.
He said the first contract for the transfer of real estate should be ready for board approval within the next couple of weeks. He also said the district still intends to break ground on the new facility next spring so it can be ready to open by the fall of 2015.