By Wes Tomlinson
The Decatur Daily, Ala.
A new Career Academies of Decatur facility to provide more space for teaching students emergency medical technician skills and how to operate heavy equipment could be ready for classes in three years, according to Decatur City Schools.
Career Academies of Decatur, located at Danville Road and Westmead Street Southwest, is the district’s career and technical education center.
The new building will be about 2,800 square feet. Its construction cost hasn’t been determined, but the school system plans to use $8 million that it received from a $1.25 billion statewide bond issued last October, according to Superintendent Michael Douglas.
The facility will be built in the old Joe Jones Gymnasium parking lot where Career Academies students and staff currently park. A new parking lot for the academy will be built along Westmead Street where an old classroom building stood until its demolition two weeks ago.
“With waiting on materials and supplies, it could be April until we begin construction,” Douglas said.
A new building was necessary because of additional programs the Career Academies has introduced, according to Ressa Chittam, principal of Career Academies and the Excel Center.
“We will be introducing heavy equipment operation simulators as well as an addition to our EMT program,” said Chittam. “We have partnered with Calhoun Community College to bring in these programs.”
The simulation program will teach students how to operate heavy machinery like bulldozers, forklifts and excavators.
“It’ll actually remind you of a video game,” Chittam said.
According to Chittam, the heavy equipment simulators were brought in last year, but they are using them now in what at one time was the old Austin High math building. Both Career Academies and Austin Junior High are located on the old high school campus.
“In the math building that we’re in, we have heavy machinery, teaching academy, and we still have two classes for the junior high,” she said, “So that results in cramped space and we’re all having to share.”
The new building will provide plenty of classroom space to house both the heavy equipment program and EMT component, she said. This building will also house a new medical career facility, an engineering program and computer labs.
After construction is complete, the Excel Center will be moved to the math building, which is next door to its current location.
Decatur City Schools project manager Lee Edminson said the new building will include a cafetorium, as well as four classrooms in the back and a storm shelter. The cafetorium will be a hybrid room that serves as both a dining area and an auditorium.
“It’ll be a cafeteria for in the future if we need to serve lunch, but we can also use it as an auditorium where we can have assemblies or awards programs,” Chittam said.
Douglas estimates that classes in the new building will begin in the fall of 2024.
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