Ag/mech workshop expansion, new welding classroom and greenhouse near completion at Nevada High School

Briana Dunn
Ag/mech workshop expansion, new welding classroom and greenhouse near completion at Nevada High School

As plans for Cub Stadium renovations are beginning to take shape, another project is nearing completion at Nevada Community School District (NCSD). Classes will start soon in the larger agriculture and mechanical workshop, which will gain an extra 20 feet; the 16-cell welding classroom addition; and a state-of-the-art greenhouse.

“There is a big push for good hands-on job-related curriculum related to welding and agriculture,” said Nevada School’s Director of Building and Grounds Dave Kroese, of the district’s reasons for the expansions. “Also, the district wanted to support Mr. (Kevin) Cooper (ag instructor and FFA advisor) and the ag/mech program’s needs, so it was time to get him a better quality, size-appropriate greenhouse.”

The ag/mech/greenhouse project is still under construction, but is nearing completion. The greenhouse portion may take a bit longer, but should be open to students and the community by next fall if all goes as planned. These additions have been in the works for about a year. They have been on the district’s wish list for much longer.

“We’re really excited that this has finally come to be. We’ve been talking about this program for about five years,” said Nevada High’s Principal Justin Gross.

The ag/mech/greenhouse expansion is being funded partially with dollars remaining from the high school expansion, but primarily through state sales tax revenue that the district has been saving. State sales tax revenue can only be used by schools for purposes involving infrastructure and equipment. The ag/mech/greenhouse project fits this criteria and the need is local, regional and national.

“The need for welders is very high across the United States; over 200,000 welders are needed, but the training isn’t there,” said Gross about the district’s decision to add a welding classroom.

Nevada Schools has partnered with ALMACO and DMACC to add the welding lab onto the current ag/mech expansion and to offer a concurrent credit welding class to Nevada High School students. ALMACO has been a fundamental asset to the project by providing many of the supplies for the welding lab for free or at cost, helping build the curriculum for the new course and providing a certified instructor to teach the class.

Dustin Johns, hired by DMACC via ALMACO, has already begun teaching the class despite the lab not being complete. Currently, students are learning safety training and basic skills in a temporary classroom, while they wait to get into their new welding room.

Nevada Superintendent Dr. Steve Gray said he would like to “publicly thank ALMACO and DMACC for their collaboration and support with the welding lab portion of this project, [because Nevada Schools] would not have been able to provide this regional welding facility and program without their support.”

Partnering with DMACC has allowed Nevada High School to offer the welding class as a dual credit course. This means students who take the class will earn both high school and college credit in welding. Furthermore, if students elect to take the corresponding applied math class at DMACC, they can earn a certification in welding. Nevada High School hopes to offer this math class in the future; unfortunately, it did not fit into the course schedule at the current time.

“The students who take the course will help the entire community by coming out of high school with a good start on a welding certification that will translate directly into careers,” said Kroese.

The welding course is offered five days a week for an hour-and-a-half, which is two more days a week than those who take it in college would be getting. This allows the instructor to cover more information with a more in-depth approach. In addition to the dual credit, students are being offered the opportunity to take a college course for free that will give them job-applicable skills.

“I’ve talked to my father and his boss [who works in fabrication welding] and there are lots of jobs available,” said Gross. “This course provides an avenue for our kids to get some skills in order to make a good living, and they don’t even have to leave Iowa.”

Students who take the welding course aren’t the only high schoolers benefiting from these expansions. Cooper’s agriculture and mechanical students and the Nevada chapter of the FFA get to reap the benefits as well. Soon, even more of Cooper’s students will be able to get hands-on experience with farm equipment once their current ag/mech lab gains the additional 20 feet, allowing them to house, and therefore fix, more tractors at the same time.

“This is about providing additional educational opportunities for the ag students through the Supervised Ag Experience (SAE) program that each ag student and FFA member maintain,” said Cooper.

“The SAE is a self-directed program outside of the school day or school calendar where students can pursue additional learning opportunities,” Cooper added. “The SAE can be placement, agri-science, entrepreneurial or production oriented. Many of our ag students and FFA members log hundreds of hours in their Supervised Ag Experience program.”

In addition to the ag/mech lab expansion, Cooper’s horticulture class and the FFA will also benefit greatly from the new greenhouse currently under construction. By this coming fall, students should be able to get in the greenhouse and start applying what they have learned in the classroom. The greenhouse will be open year-round and will act as a lab space for horticulture students.

“We want to expand our plant production lessons for horticulture and plant science students,” said Cooper. “We need young people to be interested in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — careers so we can work toward increasing food production.”

“The greenhouse will give students a lab space to practice what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to real-life situations,” added Kroese.

True to its purpose, the state-of-the-art greenhouse will be both energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. It will utilize a rack-and-pinion ridge vent cooling system and will be sustainable for years to come by eliminating the need to replace fans every few months. The cooling system is made up of ridge vents with built-in sensors that connect to computers, so they automatically open to let the natural wind in and cool the greenhouse down when needed.

“Don Josko, of BFG Supply Co., the company that provided the greenhouse design and equipment, visited our high school ag classes and invested numerous hours making sure the greenhouse would have the features needed to be efficient and productive,” Cooper said. “He has been to the construction site numerous times to check on details,” Cooper added. “It is awesome to have Don as a sounding board for this endeavor.”

King Construction has been contracted for these projects and is working toward completion in the very near future. All together the renovations will cost the district just over $1.1 million of its savings. It is believed by the school district, however, that the opportunities and benefits to students in the years to come will far outweigh the cost of the construction.