Dixon Public Schools allocating $2M for improved Career and Technical Education space

Construction to update Dixon High School’s Career and Technical Education wing was ongoing Thursday, June 13, 2024.

DIXON — Big changes will be seen in the Career and Technical Education wing at Dixon High School after construction is completed in August on a project that administrators hope will increase student interest in the building trades.

Over $2 million of the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grants – which brought just under $5 million into DPS – is dedicated to the CTE renovations, according to the Dixon Public Schools District 170 Board’s grant budget. The ESSER grants were first awarded to schools during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the federal pandemic relief effort.

When it came time to create the budget for the grant at the start of 2024, administrators at District 170 began by looking at the high school. They decided that it was time to make some updates to the CTE wing to make the classroom spaces more modern, said Doug Stansford, assistant superintendent at District 170.

The last time those facilities were renovated was in 1959, he said.

The big items on their list include large new windows to incorporate more natural light and make the space more inviting, new technology that will display student projects and creating a space for the new agriculture classes that has easy access to the greenhouse outside, said Kevin Schultz, director of buildings and grounds at District 170.

In the metals and woodworking classes, new walls will be put in to create a separation between the classroom and shop areas. Essentially gaining two new classrooms, students will be able to learn in the classroom and then apply those skills in the shop areas, Dixon High School Principal Jared Shaner said.

Those classrooms will also feature new welding equipment, an extended mezzanine area to be used for storage and two garage doors donated by Raynor Garage Doors that will give those classes better access to the outdoor areas, Schultz said.

In the hallway, the old display cases will be taken out and replaced with interactive TV panels that will show off the projects that the kids are working on in different trades classes, Schultz said.

For the tech zone area, a new glass entryway will be installed along with bigger windows to allow more natural light in, he said.

To accommodate the new agriculture classes beginning next school year, a room will be converted into a classroom with an entryway leading outside to the school’s greenhouse, Schultz said.

Three courses – intro to agriculture, animal science and horticulture – will be taught through the science department, Stansford said.

About 100 kids are enrolled in the agriculture classes to begin in August, said John Tate, assistant principal at Dixon High School. A typical grade level at Dixon High School is made up of about 175 students.

Ringland Johnson Construction of Cherry Valley is the primary contractor for the project and began work on May 30. Work is expected to be completed Aug. 5. Currently, “they are on or slightly ahead of schedule,” Stansford said.

During their preliminary discussions, Ryan Zimmerman, the industrial arts teacher at Dixon High School, gave his input based on the specific course needs.

Zimmerman, who has been teaching at Dixon High School for 23 years, said that historically the high school has had a full lineup of metal, woodworking, manufacturing, home maintenance and welding courses. He teaches introduction-level courses all the way up to advanced classes reserved for juniors and seniors. Those seniors typically move onto manufacturing programs at the Whiteside Area Career Center or Sauk Valley Community College.

Typically in education, there’s a trend that pushes for either higher education or straight into a career path. Shaner said they’re now seeing a spike in going the career route. Locally, that trend is seen with businesses such as Bonnell Industries and Raynor that need a skilled workforce, he said.

“It’s going to give the kids a good foundation of knowledge within metals and woodworking” either creating an interest in the subject or providing that knowledge if they’re already interested, Stansford said.

A goal for the District 170 administration is to eventually incorporate a career pathway into the high school’s curriculum so students would be able to earn that designation on their diploma, Shaner said.

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Payton Felix

Payton Felix

Payton Felix reports on local news in the Sauk Valley for the Shaw Local News Network. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2023.