New campus expands career-training opportunities for high school students
It wasn't perhaps the celebration envisioned when ground was broken on a new career and technical education campus more than a year ago but Five Star Schools staff gathered Aug. 24 to celebrate substantial completion of construction on FutureForward at Washington Square, the district's second CTE campus.
The ceremony featured remarks from district leaders and a timely, socially-distant handover of the building's keys from a contractor forklift to the building's own forklift.
"It took a lot of hands to make sure we could walk into this building, even today, and see how beautiful it is," Washington Square Principal Marvin Lewis said, noting the perseverance of contractor, Adolfson and Peterson Construction, to continue construction through the COVID pandemic and other site-related construction challenges.
The completion of the Washington Square campus - located in the Washington Square Business Park near 126th Avenue and Washington Street in Thornton - fulfills a promise of the community-supported 2016 Bond Program to expand CTE opportunities for students across the district. An estimated 25 percent of students interested in CTE opportunities at the district’s existing Bollman campus are currently turned away because of a shortage of program space. Lewis called spring months of the past "agonizing" as they would face tough decisions about placing students on wait lists for CTE programming because of a lack of space.
The new campus is expected to increase CTE opportunities for district students by as much as 80 percent. The FutureForward campus will start out with about 600 students enrolled with the ability to expand to serve about 1,000 students. Even in the midst of remote learning, the district is hoping to offer some limited, in-person FutureForward learning opportunities beginning in September.
During the construction process, Five Star Schools re-branded all of its CTE programming under the name FutureForward. The name is meant to unify all district CTE programs under one common name and also symbolize the hands-on, authentic career-focused learning students receive through the programs.
"It really is just this fruition of FutureForward," Board of Education President Kathy Plomer said. "We have Bollman, which has done amazing work for so many years, and we were able to invest down there to make that building beautiful and more functional. And now we have this gorgeous building that really represents such teamwork, our architectural group and the district that worked with outside folks to make this a learning-centered place.
"We're going to prepare kids that are not only ready for college because that's, of course, a huge focus but also ready for the workforce," she added.
The new facility, with about 49,500 square-feet of space, features three high bay learning labs to accommodate diesel, welding and construction programs along with an adjacent exterior work yard. It will also have classroom and lab space for criminal science, forensic science, EMT and fire science programs as well as a dedicated high-bay learning space for situational-learning opportunities for these respective programs.
The building, designed by Cuningham Group Architecture, reflects an industrial interior aesthetic with exposed mechanical and structural systems, polished concrete floors and exposed precast concrete panels. These will not only provide a contemporary feel but also serve as a teaching tool for students as they learn about these systems.
The campus is also designed with a focus on energy efficiency. It also features a full geothermal well system to support building heating and cooling needs with 70 wells for the new building and 50 additional wells to support future expansion. The high performance building envelope includes insulated precast panels; masonry veneer and metal panel walls with continuous insulation; thermally broken window frames; optimized glazing as well as LED lighting throughout the building.
In addition to the new CTE campus construction, a two-year bond renovation project recently finished to update facilities and programming at the Future Forward at Bollman campus, including an updated automotive education area.
"I thank our voters in Adams 12 for giving us the resources necessary to make this happen," Adams 12 Superintendent Chris Gdowski said. "That 2016 Bond Program was ambitious with over 80 total projects. This Washington Square facility is one of the keystone, center pieces of that whole program. I'm really proud to stand before everyone now - all those years after we conceived of that and almost four years to the day that voters said 'yes,' - and that we've been able to deliver everything we promised within time schedules and within budgets."
Learn more about the 2016 Bond Program at www.adams12.org/bond.