MAT-SU - Heavy equipment droned in the distance Friday as a crowd of about 80 well-wishers celebrated the start of construction for the Mat-Su Career Center.
The idea for the learning hub began more than 20 years ago, according to Mat-Su School District Board Member Rob Wells. The school is scheduled to open in 2007.
The center will house 525 part-time and full-time students. The school will be used by the community at other times. Wells said that with appropriate funding the school could be used year round.
The career center will retain strong ties to business and industry. The school will offer five career pathways: IT/Business/Electronics, Architecture/Engineering/Construction, Health Sciences/Nursing, Culinary Arts/Hospitality/Tourism, and Physical Fitness/Sports Science. Wells said the pathways were each chosen after learning local and national needs. The district already has leading vocational programs in nursing, auto mechanics, and computers among others. Wells credited Kristen Forrester, the District's career and technical education director, as the visionary for the center.
Wasilla area Assemblywoman Mary Kvalheim applauded the 150 or so partnerships that were built between the business community and the center.
Wells read words of recognition about Forrester from the Twenty-fourth Alaska State Legislature. "Under her direction the School District now offers organized career pathways and training for students to receive nationally recognized certificates in technical fields," Wells said to a tearful Forrester who announced her retirement at the ceremony.
The project is expected to cost $15 million to $18 million.
The 76,550-square foot project is being funded partly through general obligation bonds. The state is reimbursing the Borough up to 60 percent of the total cost.
The 30-acre site for the proposed career center is near Teeland Middle School. The tract is accessed from Seldon Road, but will eventually connect to North Seward Meridian Parkway.
Officials from the Borough, the School District, the Congressional Mat-Su office, and from the construction industry were among the crowd of boosters. Rep. Bill Stoltze, of Chugiak, shook hands with the attending Boy Scouts.
Some photos of the ceremony are attached.
For more information, contact project manager Bob Bechtold at (907) 745-9417.