Wayne High School’s $7M career tech expansion project underway

Classroom spaces to prepare kids for construction, HVAC and welding jobs should be ready next fall

Construction on the $7.1 million technology expansion at Wayne High School is officially underway after the project had stalled in the planning stages, a snag school officials said was due to rising inflation and costs of materials.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday after months of cost estimates coming in over budget due to supply chain issues and rising construction costs, according to district officials, much of which is a lasting effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and its strain on the global and national economy.

District Superintendent Jason Enix, who began his tenure this summer, said while the project is taking place early in his time with the district, it has been a long time coming.

“This has been about two years in the making and is a very important part of the district’s strategic plan, so I’m grateful that it’s to this point and it’s moving forward,” Enix said.

Earlier this year, the district announced plans to use around $7 million of its total $16.9 million in federal ESSER funding to construct career technology classrooms at the high school, as well as permanent maker-space labs at each of the five elementary schools.

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The school board re-evaluated those plans in April after estimated expenses for the project rose sharply, prompting board members to adjust the scope of the project. By June, costs had soared nearly $3 million over budget.

The board subsequently decided to scrap the proposal for permanent maker-spaces at the elementary schools, at least temporarily, and focus solely on construction of the career tech classrooms.

In July, district spokeswoman Cassie Dietrich said the project was still coming in over budget, even after dropping the maker-space plans. Dietrich said construction management company Gilbane was “scoping the work with subcontractors” in an attempt to get prices down.

Gilbane was ultimately able to reign in costs enough to keep the overall price close to the district’s original $7 million budget.

In 2021, the district selected Ruetschle Architects to create preliminary designs for the project, which include the renovation of and addition to a building on the Wayne High School campus. The renovated building will house three career tech labs for student use. These labs will allow students to experience hands-on education within the construction/electric/carpentry, HVAC and welding fields.

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“Getting skilled labor to do really important work is becoming more and more difficult, so the business community is excited about these opportunities for kids,” Enix said. “These are credentialed programs, which allow kids to graduate from high school with credentials that are ready to go into the workforce right away.”

Multiple Huber Heights City Council members attended Thursday’s event, as well as Mayor Jeff Gore. Councilwoman Kathleen Baker said she’s “thrilled” to see the project coming to fruition.

“These students are going to be job-ready from day one and aren’t going to have a debt hanging over their head,” she said. “It’s exciting for the students, for the parents, and for the community.”

The building to be renovated is attached to the school’s Performing Arts Center, but detached from the main high school building by a driveway. Dietrich said the project is estimated to be completed by fall 2023.

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