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FHS breaks ground on vocational center

Above: Ground breaking on Fairmont High School’s new vocational building took place Monday morning. From left: Buildings and grounds staff Jared Herman, Dan Engeman, Scott Cole and director Tyler Garrison; school board members Dan Brookens, Mike Edman and Mari Myren; Superintendent Andy Traetow; High School co-principals Chad Brusky and Alex Schmidt.

FAIRMONT — Fairmont High School broke ground on its $6.7 million vocational expansion building on Monday. Construction of the 13,200 square-foot facility is slated to start this week with an anticipated completion date of June 2022.

The building will be located on the south side of the high school building, next to the existing vocational area. It will include a classroom designed for HVAC, an expanded woodshop classroom, automotive shop expansion and a manufacturing lab.

Chad Pike, project manager for Kraus-Anderson, said the building should be up up by the first of the year and then they’ll start working on the interior and the roof. He shared that the high school building and new facility will be connected by an outdoor canopy-covered walkway.

A large number of stakeholders were present for the ground-breaking ceremony, including local leaders, school administrators and board members, donors and project managers.

Superintendent Andy Traetow said of the project, “One of our goals was to enhance opportunities and access for all students, not only locally but in our area. This is an exciting moment as we start on that journey together.”

Traetow said the new facility has the potential to benefit not only the students, but the school’s various vocational departments that already exist, including construction trades, welding, automotive, culinary, agriculture, aeronautics and business education.

Traetow thanked the community and voters for their support in the project. In February of this year, a $6.73 million bond referendum passed, with 67 percent of the community in favor of the project. He also thanked the community for recognizing the need to grow education and job-related experiences for students in the area.

Traetow also acknowledged the vocational advisory committee, school board members, school staff, previous administrators Joe Brown and Jake Tietje, who are not with the district anymore, but who Traetow said had the foresight and commitment to bring the project forward.

He also highlighted those who have provided donations, both large and small. Some significant donations came from CHS, Kahler Automation and the Greischar family.

Finally, Traetow thanked the students who were at the ceremony, as well as the other 800 in the school building, without whom he said the project wouldn’t be possible.

“You’re ultimately the reason that we’re moving forward with this. To give you the skills and job opportunities that can help you move onto the next phase in your life,” Traetow said.

Two students currently enrolled in the school’s vocational classes include sophomore Jacob Weimers and junior Sawyer Waterbury, who are taking small engines and building trades.

Waterbury said he has an interest in pursuing a vocational career.

“It’s always going to be needed. They want to do more, add HVAC and other things to give us more of a range of things to learn,” Waterbury said.

The two will still be in school when the new building is complete and Weimers said he’s looking forward to taking classes in the new facility.

Brad Johnson is the woodshop teacher at the high school. Several years ago, Johnson was also teaching some STEM classes, in addition to woodshop.

“Now I’m 100 percent a woods teacher because I have enough kids to fill my classes,” Johnson said.

He said the key things the project will provide for his class are a larger woodshop, and an indoor facility to build in.

“We can build year-round without worrying about the weather and that’s a big thing,” he said.

Johnson said he’s most excited for the opportunities to get students involved in projects, as well as the magnitude of the projects.

“We can go beyond storage sheds and do fish houses, tiny houses or build a house. We’ll have an amazing area to do that,” Johnson said.

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