Dawson County High School’s current practice field will soon become the parking lot for the new career academy that is set to break ground early this summer.
The 35,000 square foot, two-story facility will house new state-of-the-art labs for the high school’s dual enrollment students.
“We were looking at the possibility of revamping our current labs in our building and as we looked at the future of our district – five, 10, 15 years down the road – we had to determine if the space we had in the building for our regular academic courses would be enough,” said Superintendent Damon Gibbs. “Realistically the amount of money we would put into renovation we can build the building. Obviously it’s more because it’s a new building but we can renovate the existing space for additional academic classrooms for the future.”
The architectural firm Robertson Loia Roof in Alpharetta has been approved to design the building and has already submitted the floor plans. The site, located on the corner of Hwy 53 and Perimeter Road, has been surveyed and the soil sample has been submitted for testing but the project is still months away from seeing dirt move.
The Dawson County Planning and Development recommended Carroll Daniel Construction and was approved to construct the new facility by the board of education during the meeting March 12.
The building is estimated to cost $7 million and will be funded completely through the county’s ESPLOST funds.
The new career academy is just another way the Dawson County School System will better serve the career tech students and will help to eliminate the issue of transportation that has been a problem for many dual enrollment students.
“It’s going to really transform the way we serve those students with 21st century lab space and really give those programs really just the recognition and the service that they deserve,” Gibbs said.
Currently, the culinary arts program operates out of an old home economics classroom and before the JROTC opened their new facility this year, they were operating in space that was never designed to be used for that program.
“We’re trying to give appropriate space to the appropriate programs so that they can better serve our kids,” said Gibbs.
The career academy will contain labs for early childhood education, culinary arts, construction and engineering and technology on the first floor as well as outdoor work areas, classrooms and a seminar room. The second floor will house two multiuse business and computer science labs, a science lab, a healthcare science lab, classrooms and a broadcast and video production lab and studio.
The only lab that will stay at its current location is the agricultural lab due to its proximity to the greenhouse.
While there currently aren’t any students to fill the construction and video production labs, Gibbs said they are being built for future growth of the programs as dual enrollment continues to become a more popular route for students.
The early registration numbers anticipate 70 dual enrollment students for next year, a number that is expected to increase as the program becomes a more popular option for students.
Gibbs hopes that the new facility will help foster the county’s dual enrollment program and strengthen relationships with Lanier Tech and the University of North Georgia, and he suggested that college students may be able to utilize the facility as well.
“I think that’s part of the partnership that has to be worked out and if Lanier Tech or University of North Georgia wants to send their professors we’re more than willing for that to happen… but if they want to use some of our folks because they don’t have enough staff then we want to offer that as well,” said Gibbs. “How that shakes out is really to be determined but we know that one of the two different districts across the state are using both models so we know that either one of those can be successful.
And we have plenty of time. That’s the good part for us. We’re what, 16-18 months out from that thing opening so we got plenty of time.”
The Dawson County High School Career Academy will open its doors to students August 2019.