As Norfolk Public Schools moves forward with its career academies, it also is dealing with renovations to Norfolk High School.

At Monday night’s meeting, the Norfolk board of education approved on a 6-0 vote the writing of specifications and seeking of bids for possible renovations.

Bill Robinson, associate superintendent of business, maintenance and transportation, said the plan is to get bids after winter break and have a possible recommendation brought to the board in February or March.

“This is really step one,” Robinson said. “I’ve got to have this step take place and then I can start putting some real numbers to what we’re trying to do. Then we can have a real in-depth conversation about how far we take this project this summer.”

Possible renovations would focus on areas of the high school that serve vocation career areas, specifically automotive and welding.

It’s mostly about needing more space, Robinson said. For example, the school needs a larger area to teach automotive classes because the current space prevents a car lift from fully extending and it limits the types of cars that can be brought in.

This agenda item was voted on after the board heard from teachers and administrators involved with career academies at its study session.  

In addition to High School Principal Jake Luhr, Career Academies Coordinator Jeff Hoffman and Middle School Principal Jennifer Robinson, who were the main presenters during the session, about 15 faculty members who are involved with career academies were in attendance. That number included a representative from Northeast Community College as well.

“Well, I appreciate the show of support,” board president Bruce Mitchell said. “We were told it’d be three people talking to us, so to see a room full of people who are passionate about what’s happening, I can speak for myself and, hopefully, the rest of the board, it’s very much appreciated.”

Norfolk Public Schools will roll out automotive, agriculture, construction, drafting and health sciences career academies in the 2016-17 school year. The following year the district wants to offer academies in business — which would include accounting and finance, marketing management, and hospitality and tourism — as well as food and nutrition, early childhood education, welding and information technology.  

While some renovations may be needed, and some schools go as far as to invest in an off-site location for career education, the district’s main focus is the opportunity career academies make available to students, Luhr said.

“The learning opportunities we create for our kids is probably, in my opinion, more important than taking your resources and putting it into a brand-new building or remodeling an existing building,” Luhr said. “So long term we already have the course that the kids take. We want to structure those courses so the kids can go through a pathway and earn some certifications along the way upon graduation.”

Money for the project would come from the district’s general, depreciation and special building funds.

Overall, board members expressed excitement with the progress of planning the academies.

“I’d just like to say I’ve been very impressed,” board member Tammy Day said. “I met with Jeff (Hoffman) last week and walked around ... and I’m just impressed with the way this is all lining up and that you’re taking pieces at a time and addressing curriculum and course structure and facilities and putting together a nice package for students and for the community to digest.”

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