CV Tech Plans Expansion to Keep Pace with Student Demand
September 1, 2017
EL RENO – Once in awhile, blessings have strings attached, says Dr. Greg Winters.
Canadian Valley Technology Center’s superintendent quarterbacked the school to perhaps its biggest triumph following a May 2013 tornado that wiped out an entire campus.
A completely reconstructed El Reno Campus was christened in January with a visit from the governor. A sense of normalcy returned as students fired up computers and machines in the new surroundings.
As summertime approached – signaling the end of one school year and the beginning of another – reality anchored. Demand for CV Tech’s full-time classes has soared.
“We had a 40 percent increase in applications from high school students for this school year,” Winters said. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as an educator was face the reality that we don’t have enough room for all the students who want to be here.”
Demand in recent years peaked at just over 600 high school applications for the two area CV Tech campuses. This year, there were nearly 1,000.
Winters said there is not room to accommodate the rapid Canadian County growth at either of the two area campuses, which together serve eight area high school districts who themselves are experiencing growing pains.
Recovery Amidst a Crisis
The El Reno Campus square footage remains what it was before the tornado. Winters said several factors contributed to the decision not to increase the size.
First and foremost, Winters said he refused to take advantage of a disaster. Plus, the school had to ask district voters to pass a $12 million bond issue in April 2014 to cover costs not covered by insurance. All were costs associated with outfitting a 1970s era facility to 2017 standards, Winters said.
Costs included mandatory code updates, such as increased hallway widths, flame retardant upgrades, increased fire suppression, roadways and more. The school saved an estimated $4 million by salvaging infrastructure and rebuilding on roughly the same footprint, he said.
“We absolutely needed the funding or else we would have been closing programs and laying off staff at a time of unprecedented growth,” Winters said.
U.S. Census figures show the county's population grew by 17.36 percent between 2010 and 2016, making it the fastest-growing county statewide during that period.
Bond funds only equip a school to build classrooms and shops. Winters said he was unwilling to overburden the school’s annual operating budget (general fund) during crisis recovery to pay for the additional staffing required by adding space.
Expansion Planned at Two Sites
Now that school has resumed, Winters believes the time is right to add more space. Accordingly, the school’s building fund has had time to recover as well. As a result, additional bond funds will not be necessary to facilitate the added space.
“Nobody’s taxes will increase as a result of this expansion,” Winters said. “Our building fund is the normal vehicle that we use to build buildings when necessary.”
Plans are to add 40,000 square feet at the El Reno Campus and nearly 60,000 square feet at the Dr. Earl Cowan Campus near Yukon.
The El Reno expansion will facilitate a new Mechatronics program and relocation of the school’s Aviation Maintenance and Pre-Engineering programs.
CV Tech Deputy Superintendent Gayla Lutts said a good example of mechatronics is an industrial robot, which includes aspects of electronics, mechanics and computing.
An advisory committee comprised of area industry experts was organized to provide advice on the type of skills required. The group also has recommended equipment needs for the startup program. In addition, school officials have toured facilities with existing programs.
“This is another example of our efforts to meet industry needs while providing educational opportunities for students,” Lutts said. “This program will open up avenues for industry-specific training with area business as well.”
Mechatronics education will focus on teaching students to become technicians who can service robotic technology.
“We’re going to train students and skill the workforce for tomorrow,” she said.
Some Programs Relocating
The school’s Aviation Maintenance program has been located at Will Rogers World Airport since the tornado. The move back to El Reno accomplishes key objectives, Lutts said. CV Tech will no longer have to rent space at the airport, and area students will not have to drive as far to get to school. Another long-term goal, she said, is adding high school students. Busing them to and from the airport was not an option due to time constraints.
“We want to provide local aviation education training space for students who live in this area,” Lutts said. “Having the program on campus will expand opportunities for aviation curriculum.”
Additionally, Pre-Engineering must be relocated from the Cowan Campus, which is being prepped to become a health-care only facility.
“This allows for all our health-related programs to be under one roof and permits us to expand what we already offer and to add Surgical Technology and a variety of other health-related programs based on industry need,” Lutts said. “The health care industry requires an enormous number of workers each year, and we want to be in position to help meet the demand.”
The school will seek bids for both projects by the end of the year, Winters said. School officials have petitioned Canadian County commissioners requesting that the county serve as the trust authority to consummate the process of borrowing the project money, which collectively is not to exceed $27 million.
“The tornado cost us 3½ years in temporary facilities,” Winters said. “It was not ideal for education, but we’re thankful for the former car dealership building in Yukon.
“The reality is we were very limited. Our capacities had to drop. In the mean time, population growth in Canadian County swelled. That really put us in a bind. To be real honest, I didn’t think six or seven months into the new building that we would be turning 250 kids away. It breaks your heart.”
Once underway, all construction is projected to be completed within 24 months.