In North Bend School District, there has been an emphasis on increasing vocational programs for students.

While many students will follow the traditional path of finishing K-12 education before moving on to college, the district has realized many others prefer to have a marketable skill when they graduate from college.

That emphasis was seen recently when the district opened a new, state-of-the-art woodshop at North Bend High School. The facility trains students on a variety of skills, offering them the ability to take part in a three-year program that will prepare them for getting jobs once out of school.

But there is still a lot that needs to be done, and district officials hope in the North Bend School bond passes November 2, they will be able to offer similar upgrades at the junior high and high school for vocational programs such as welding, culinary and medical programs.

During a tour of the two schools last week, Superintendent Kevin Bogatin led school board members through the schools and explained the needs that could be met with additional funding.

At the junior high, the biggest problem remains an aging building.

“This has the most TLC in the bond,” Bogatin said. “Everything is just dated. It kind of looks like it did if you came here 20 years ago. It looks very similar.”

The bond will replace windows, upgrade the HVAC system, change the front entry to provide for a safer entry into the school. It will also upgrade the science labs, where a teacher said neither the water and gas stations were currently working.

The vocational skills portion of the school is one of the most popular, but an aging building and limited space is putting a cramp on what can be taught. The photography portion of the room is being used for storage, and other portions are limited due to space issues.

Across campus at the high school, the welding program is full of students, but there are issues that make it difficult to teach.

“There’s no classroom space,” Bogatin said as students watched their teacher weld. “He’s doing hands-on, but there’s no real space to teach. This is sort of an in-limbo space, used as a classroom and storage at the same time.”

Upstairs in the culinary arts classroom, there are similar issues. Chef Frank Murphy was teaching a freshman class as he explained how the space limits what they can do.

“You can definitely see the issues we’re having serving the number of kids,” Murphy said. “There’s no ventilation in here. Also, to turn the heat off and on, there’s a breaker in here from when the building was built. I actually have to flip the breaker.”

Murphy also said as the program has grown, the school’s limited electrical capabilities have hampered what can be done.

“We need more power, we need vents, we need space,” he said. “We’re trying to get students ready for the industry, and we’re using home ovens. For a program that serves 150 kids, this is really important.”

Down the hall, students taking an introductory healthcare class were practicing using needles to find veins for taking blood. While some of the students did the hands-on work, the rest sat at their desks because there was no lab space that could accommodate the need.

Bogatin said with the growing need for healthcare workers, the program could be extremely useful, but it, too, is limited.

“It could expand further, but with a shortage of space, it limits what you can do,” he said.

In addition to expanding the vocational skills programs, the bond money would be used to upgrade every day elements such as lighting, HVAC and windows. It would also be used to make the campus more secure and limit entryways to and from the school.

The bond would also be used to upgrade door locks and key systems, replacing the key locks with ones that open with swipe cards. The cards would limit who can enter while also providing an electronic record of who, when and where people came onto campus.

Voters in the North Bend School District will begin receiving ballots this week for the bond election. Ballots can be mailed back for free or returned to any drop box in the county. Results are expected to be known November 2.

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