Several hundred students expected to take classes at new Lawrence technical training campus

More than 300 students are expected to attend classes at Lawrence’s new technical training campus when it opens in August, local leaders were told on Wednesday.

Officials with the Peaslee Technical Training Center and the Lawrence school district’s adjacent College and Career Center said work is progressing well on the new campus that is under construction near 31st Street and Haskell Avenue.

“These are pretty exciting times,” said Patrick Kelly, director of career and technical education for Lawrence public schools. “We are really filling a gap that has existed for a long time.”

Kelly said 200 high school students have signed up for classes at the new College and Career Center, a 33,000 square-foot building that is being constructed on property adjacent to the former Honeywell Avionics building at 2920 Haskell Ave.

In the former Honeywell building, work is underway to convert 17,000 square feet of space into the new Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center, or Peaslee Tech, as officials have started to brand the facility.

Marvin Hunt, executive director for Peaslee Tech, said he expects about 100 students to attend the center when classes begin in mid-August. Hunt, at an event sponsored by the Lawrence chamber of commerce, released a class schedule for the campus that shows there will be nearly 40 college-level classes offered between Peaslee Tech and the College and Career Center during the first semester of operation.

Peaslee Tech will have classes in construction, allied health, emergency medical services, biotechnology, criminal justice, industrial engineering technology, welding, and computer technology. The center also will offer several basic academic courses designed to improve job skills in a variety of industries.

Instructors with Johnson County Community College, Neosho County Community College and Flint Hills Technical College will teach the classes, many of which will be on evenings or weekends.

“Most of our students probably will be half-time students,” Hunt said. “Most of our adult students probably will have other jobs.”

Several of the classes at Peaslee Tech will be open to high school students as well. Thus far, about 20 high school students are enrolled in Peaslee Tech’s construction program.

A state law allows high school students in the their junior and senior years to take many of the technical training classes tuition free. Hunt said tuition rates for adults will vary by class, but probably will average about $80 per credit hour, with a few other lab fees. Hunt said financial aid will be available.

Interior demolition work has begun on the Peaslee Center building, Hunt said; the building will be remodeled to include two general purpose classrooms, a construction lab, a computer lab, a manufacturing technology lab and administrative areas. Plans to add an automotive lab and HVAC lab have been delayed due to time and funding constraints, but Hunt hopes to have that space in place within the next 12 months.

Work on the College and Career Center is further along. Crews currently are installing drywall in the new building. The center will have lab and teaching space for classes in bioscience, health care, law and government, and several other fields.

Peaslee Tech has begun enrolling students in classes for August in recent days. It has an enrollment fair planned for 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on May 13 at Centennial School, 2145 Louisiana St.

Hunt said leaders of the center — which is being funded through the city, the county, the local Economic Development council and private donations — are eager to see what type of response they get from prospective students. The center was formed because economic development leaders were convinced the community was losing out on businesses expanding or locating in the area because of a lack of a technically trained workforce.

But Hunt said Peaslee Tech has work to do to educate potential students about what is available in the world of technical training because the concept is still relatively new to Lawrence.

“People who can figure out why assembly lines aren’t working or why products aren’t going out the door, have real value to companies,” Hunt said. “We can train people to do that. They can start making $50,000 a year before they’re even 30 years old. It will take a little time for people to start hearing about those successes, but that is what can happen here.”