The ground was broken on Thursday, March 4, at The Huntington County Community Learning Center (LC).
A $4.5 million addition, slated to wrap up in September, is now underway.
“We are doing an expansion of our current facility,” explains Huntington County Community School Corporation Superintendent Chad Daugherty.
“We will be going from 29,306 square feet to 49,784 square feet. So, we are adding on 20,478 square feet to help out with our programs for career and technical education (CTE).”
According to its website, the LC is home to half of the CTE programs of Huntington North High School (HNHS), as well as the only location for WorkOne Northeast, Ivy Tech Community College and Impact Institute in Huntington County.
The LC also has an office for Huntington University and is home to the Huntington County 4-H Robotics Team.
Currently, 145 HNHS students per day take advantage of the LC, says Daugherty.
He says those students are enrolled in programs such as automotive, certified nursing assistant (CNA), criminal justice, emergency medical technician (EMT), precision machining or welding, or are taking part in an internship.
Since 2016, the LC has offered a slew of CTE programs for HNHS students, as well as continuing education opportunities for community members.
At that time, Daugherty says, the Huntington community came together to raise over $1.4 million, funding the expansion of the school corporation’s former vocational/technical building.
Daugherty says that expansion “planted the initial seed.”
“We feel like we have reached our limits with the program since 2016,” he explains, “and expanding this is going to allow our programs to be even better.”
Currently, the LC welding bay is 900 square feet, says Daugherty. When the expansion is complete, the welding area will grow to 2,900 square feet. Daugherty says this will grow the program from 12 welders to 22 welders, “so we are very excited about that.”
The LC’s CNC machining program “will get a new shop, (and) they will be getting some new equipment,” he adds.
The Learning Center’s Director Tiffanney Drummond was instrumental in a grant award received from the Don Wood Foundation (formerly known as the 80/20 Foundation Trust), says Daugherty, which will help purchase new equipment for the precision machining class. The $202,512 award will purchase one computer numerical control (CNC) mill, one CNC lathe and six manual lathes.
Also expanding will be the classroom area for the criminal justice class, which will have a new area for simulators.
Further, the Huntington County 4-H Robotics team, which now shares a space in the LC with precision machining, will have their own room dedicated solely to robotics once the expansion is complete.
“Also … we will be bringing over our alternative school that is currently housed in the Dyer Building – that we are paying to rent,” adds Daugherty.
“This is not going to impact only our students, but it is going to impact the workforce here in Huntington,” says Daugherty of the expansion.
“If we would like to attract any new businesses or industry into our community they are going to look and say, ‘How are you going to train your workforce?’ and right here we have a nice model.
“We can train people in welding, industrial maintenance and precision machining.”
Daugherty says HCCSC is excited to provide the opportunity to give skills and expertise to not only HCCSC students, but also community members.
“This is an investment not only for our students but into our community and we feel very passionate about that,” he explains.
Daugherty says the improved LC will have a computer lab that will be accessible by students and incoming workers, or students taking classes after school hours.
“We are very blessed to be able to do that,” says Daugherty.
Right now, he says 33 HNHS students are taking advantage of internships and 35 students taking advantage of being in a co-op through the LC.
“That is your work-based learning,” he explains.
“Work-based learning is becoming more popular.
“Not only does it give students the skill and expertise by going out and working with an employer … but it also builds those networks. These students build relationships while they’re out there, so it gives them a feel for what the real world is like, and gives them those skills and certifications for them to go ahead and earn a living right out of high school.
“Not everybody goes to college, and we need people – a skilled workforce.”
With the completion date for this project slated for September, Daugherty says the corporation is now scheduling to utilize the improved building next fall.
“It looks like we are going to be able to meet our deadline,” he says.
“I know there was some concerns about getting materials … but we feel like we’re okay. “We got ahead of this a little bit. There may be a delay here or there, but we still think we can meet that deadline of the middle of September.
“We are hoping it’s going to go as planned.”
Daugherty says there are “a lot of people behind the scenes that have helped make this (expansion) happen.”
“You can have programs, but you have to have a great instructor.
“We feel like we have really, really good instructors over there.
“And you have to have somebody to oversee it, to monitor it, somebody to advocate for those programs, and our director Tiffanney Drummond has done a phenomenal job, and we wouldn’t be where we’re at today without her leadership over there.
“Drummond does a phenomenal job of making sure our programs are good, and our instructors are teaching all the standards, and giving our students all the skills and expertise that they need to earn a certification.”
“We are trying to make sure we are giving the people the skills needed to be successful and actually, to be able to help our workforce here in Huntington,” Daugherty concludes.
“It’s a collaboration between everybody – private, public and also the school corporation.
“It’s been a great partnership.”
Barton-Coe-Vilamaa of Fort Wayne is architect for the expansion, and Hagerman, Inc., also of Fort Wayne, serves as construction manager.
More information about the LC is available by calling 356-2858 or by visiting www.HuntingtonLearning.org.