Greene Career Center bond would pay for new school, expand programs

Greene County voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to approve a bond levy for construction of an expanded $62 million Greene County Career Center at U.S. 35 and U.S. 68 in Xenia, replacing the current Enon Road campus.

Career Center Superintendent David Deskins said the center hopes to expand offerings in certain areas based on its recent study of the local job market in aerospace areas.

“The study identified three predominant job markets in the area that were going unfilled regularly — engineering, manufacturing and information technology, predominantly around cybersecurity, drones and that sort of thing,” Deskins said. “So with that data, the school was trying to figure out how we could expand training at our career center — continuing our current programs, but also expanding to meet those job needs in our region.”

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The bond issue is 1.03 mills for 20 years, meaning the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $36.05 per year if it passed, according to the Greene County auditor’s office.

Employers in the Dayton region for years have cited a need for more qualified workers in certain skilled trades, as advanced manufacturing and technology companies try to grow.

Last year, voters in five counties approved a major expansion for the Miami Valley Career Technology Center in Clayton, which has been turning away close to 300 high school students per year because of lack of capacity. Deskins said the smaller GCCC doesn’t turn away that many, but does have some programs at capacity.

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Chris Kershner, executive vice president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber has not taken a position on the Greene County bond issue, but said tech centers need to be able to adapt to changing needs.

“The business community should take a look at all these bond levies and see what will be beneficial to fill not only the workforce needs of today but also the needs of tomorrow,” Kershner said. “The specificity around those needs may change in the future. … Can you flex and be adaptable to the changing workforce demands of the business community? That is the secret.”

Deskins said GCCC is trying to pivot to key workforce needs as part of its Taking Flight initiative. The Career Center already offers more than a dozen programs, including automotive, criminal justice, digital media and welding, and those will remain. But other high-tech programs would be added.

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On-campus enrollment in full GCCC programs has increased from 514 four years ago to nearly 700 this year, and the number of students taking individual courses at school districts’ satellite programs has risen from 1,200 to 2,300.

“The most powerful thing about any career center is it gives students the ability to pick between a trade, or going on to some type of further education if they choose,” he said. “But it guarantees that a lot of our kids are going to be able to find jobs and stay in jobs in our area.”

Deskins said the Career Center looked at other options before going on the ballot.

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A draft report by the Ohio School Facilities Commission estimated a $24 million cost to renovate the existing facility and bring it up to standard, citing significant roofing problems, among other issues.

Most of the current facility on the northwest edge of Xenia Twp. was built in 1966, with smaller additions in 1988, 1994 and 2003. Hesitant to invest that much in a 51-year-old facility, GCCC worked with local legislators to get language passed in the 2017 state budget bill that would have made state funding available for construction of new career centers. But Gov. John Kasich vetoed the language, citing concerns with funding equity.

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After confirming that local industry partners would help with equipment but wouldn’t pay for construction of a new school, Deskins said GCCC decide to go to the voters.

The Career Center has already purchased the site, at the southwest corner of U.S. 35 and U.S. 68 on Xenia’s south side. Deskins said GCCC already has $5 million set aside to staff expanded programs.

On the most recent state report card, GCCC got a “D” in overall academic achievement, a “C” for the percentage of its students passing technical skill assessments, and an “A” for placement — what percentage of students are employed, in the military, in an apprenticeship or enrolled in further education/training after leaving school.

“This is about more than preparing workforce and more than providing opportunities for our kids,” Deskins said. “This is a huge economic development benefit for our region, because when companies find out that we’re moving into technologies where they need workers, that’s going to help attract more businesses to this region.”

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