Ready for classes: Renovations on BHS industrial arts center nearly completed

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The newly renovated industrial arts technology center at Blair High School is expected to have plenty of students in its classrooms when it officially opens this fall.

Nearly 300 students are signed up for welding, woods and construction classes in the first semester.

“That's not counting advanced welding and precision machine classes,” said Ed Mills, who along with Chris Schuler teaches industrial tech classes.

Another 300 students are expected to take classes second semester.

“All of the woods (classes are full), all of the construction, we had to add some welding. There's definitely going to be lots of traffic in here,” BHS principal Tammy Holcomb said.

“There's always been a huge interest in welding, we just didn't have the room for it,” Mills added. “Now, we've got the room and we're still exploding on that one.”

Construction on the industrial arts technology center was wrapping up last week with a number of punch list items.

“There are a few things that need to be hooked up, but for the most part it's done,” said Tom Anderson, executive director of operations for Blair Community Schools.

The new facility will allow BHS to add new programs through a partnership with Metropolitan Community College, including four dual enrollment classes — two welding and two precision. Metro will provide instructors at no cost to the district.

The project, which had a guaranteed maximum price of just over $2 million, created a welding lab, with 14 stations, identical to Metro's lab at its South Omaha campus. Also included in the 14,000-square-foot renovation are a construction science lab, manufacturing lab, two art rooms, drafting and computer science lab and robotics and STEM lab.

“It's still blowing my mind that there's absolutely no space added,” Holcomb said.

Mills, who was fond of the old space, said it's bittersweet seeing the renovations come together.

“We have more room to work and that's great. We're getting a lot of new equipment that we'll have to get used to using and get set up soon. For the most part, I think we're going to enjoy it,” he said. “It's going to be nice having three distinct areas for us to teach in and not having to be on top of each other trying to teach a small engine class and a woods 1 class at the same time.”

The students have shown their excitement for the new space, too.

“They were excited about it last year,” Mills said. “They always wanted to come down and check it out.”

Last month, the BCS Board of Education approved the purchase of equipment, machinery, tools and lockers for the center totaling more than $100,000.

The district has also received nearly $490,000 in donations of equipment for the center.

“That's a big plus right there,” Mills said.

An open house for the public will likely take place later this summer prior to the start of the school year.

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