The Norfolk Public Schools board of education voted unanimously Thursday to let bids for an addition to Norfolk High School.
The addition, which will be on the back of the building, will be used for career academies — the first installment of which began this school year.
Specifically, the addition is meant to accommodate needs in the automotive and welding academies. Both will be introduced in the 2017-2018 school year along with those focusing on early childhood education, culinary, information technology, hospitality and tourism, business management and administration, finance, and marketing.
The academies rolled out already this year were agriculture — both plant and animal focused — construction, drafting and health science.
Preliminary mock-ups of the addition show that the space will accommodate up to four cars for the automotive academy. It also includes two bays equipped with lifts.
"It will allow the students to work on a full-sized truck because of the height of the addition," said Bill Robinson, the district’s associate superintendent of business, maintenance and facilities.
The current space at the high school doesn't allow a lift to fully extend.
A welding area will be included as well. There will be 12 booths, all of which will accommodate electric and gas — argon, acetylene and oxygen — welding.
"They can just stay in that booth," Robinson said. "They just change their hookups and everything will be piped to each booth."
Another perk of the addition is the large door connected to the welding area, which will allow for tractors and trucks to be brought in and worked on by welding students. Students in the agriculture academy will be able to utilize this space, too, since some implement welding is a part of their course work.
A foundry area will be kept, as that's something workers at Nucor still do, Robinson said. Plasma cutters will also be located in this area.
"Then the existing metal shop, instead of having booths and all that, we'll just have machinery for cutting pipe and those kinds of things will be located there," he said.
Robinson said he hopes to have a bid for the board to vote on by its November meeting. Then construction would start immediately with the goal of being done by July 2017.
Robinson estimated that the addition would cost anywhere from $1.5 to $1.7 million. That cost does not include equipping the space. That would cost another $300,000 to $350,000, Superintendent Dr. Jami Jo Thompson said.
Robinson said the school was interested in getting good, commercial-quality equipment to help students be prepared for the workforce.
"We've gotten 20-plus years out of some of this stuff," Robinson said. "You can buy cheaper things, but we want to train these students on what they will be using in the industry."
Originally, the district considered renovating the high school's existing automotive and welding space, but that option proved to be less practical, Robinson said.
"In the automotive especially, the remodel still didn't satisfy our need ... and actually what we're doing is less expensive," he said. "Remodeling an existing space sometimes has some unforeseen costs, and this was the most cost effective. Plus, it provided what we needed for these programs to fully function how we want them to for now and down the road."
The district began fundraising efforts for the career academies over the summer, and Sarah Dittmer, executive director of the Norfolk Public Schools Foundation, has previously said the district would like to raise $1.5 million locally. But NPS has already invested $1.2 million in career education, and has committed an additional $561,000 to the program.
"With the information that's been shared with me, I feel very positive that we have really strong support here," Robinson said.
Thompson said the amount of money raised so far would be revealed at the annual Traditions Breakfast in late October.
Board members were pleased with the preliminary sketch for the career academy addition.
"I really like that it keeps all of our students in the same building, too, as opposed to off-site and maybe feeling isolated in some ways from their peers," Tammy Day said. "This allows the academies to be a natural part of the school day as opposed to a place you go. I also think it's really great that the community has really come together — business, private individuals — with the school to make something happen that affects our students, it affects our workforce, it affects our community development."