Education with an eye on the future

This is a rendering of what the Elkhart Community Schools proposed Engineering, Technology and Innovation building will look like when completed. 

ELKHART — As Elkhart Community Schools consolidates its high schools next year, one field of study is set to have its own home. 

The school corporation is taking steps to build a new engineering, technology and innovation building.

The learning space will be located on the city’s west side between Elkhart Memorial High School and the Elkhart Area Career Center. The design for the building calls for 45,000 square feet.

Construction is already under way to merge Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central high schools. Sophomore through senior classes at Elkhart Central will soon be consolidated into the existing Elkhart Memorial to create a unified Elkhart High School by fall of 2021.

The new high school will have six schools of study, including one for engineering, technology and innovation. Career paths for this field include aeronautics, architecture, automotive, computer-aided design, information technology, physics and welding. 

“We wanted to ensure our students have a learning environment that’s modern, flexible and innovative,” said Tony Gianesi, the district’s chief operating officer. “And with our schools being a little bit older and outdated, we thought this would be a great way to give them that space.”

The building will serve students during the school day, but the space will also be available to the public in the evening to be used as a “manufacturing advancement center.” The center will provide hands-on training to prepare students for their career in college or as they plan to enter the workforce directly.

“So accordingly, our facilities must be modern and have the modern equipment and learning spaces for those fields of engineering and technology that they will be entering,” Gianesi said.

The overall cost for the project is budgeted at $10 million. Half will be funded through a bond the district has and the other half through private donations, which includes a Lilly Endowment grant announced last week aimed at strengthening connections between the region’s education and business partners. 

The school board recently awarded Brown & Brown General Contractors of Wakarusa a progressive design/builder contract. Gianesi said the amount of money the district puts into construction won’t exceed $10 million. 

Construction for the project is expected to begin in August and is scheduled to be completed by the end of July 2020, Gianesi said.

“It’s very exciting that we’re going to have an opportunity to expand on our adult education programming and create a manufacturing advancement center so that our students can use it and our community can use it,” he said. “It’s exciting to think we can help the community in that way and then be part of the school system.”

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