Dan Hicks, principal of the Murray-Calloway County Area Technology Center, had to keep a heater in his office the past few winters before this one because the wind would blow through the windows.
“That building was built in 1971, I believe; everything in there needed repaired or replaced,” Hicks said of the former building that housed the vocational program on Murray Independent’s campus.
But when Hicks and his staff moved the contents of the old building to the new state-of-the-art facility that opened in October, he didn’t have to bring the heater. “You don’t have to worry about the heating and air breaking down” in the new building, said Hicks who is in his fourth year as the school’s principal.
Pre-nursing teacher Cindy Wise is also happy with the new facility.
“My lab is much bigger and so the students can spread out and they have more room to practice,” she said. “We have storage areas now and that’s something I didn’t have before so I can put all my stuff in a room and it makes everything else look neater.”
Staff and students at the vocational school helped move items from the old facility to the new mostly during fall break.
Calloway County High School students Amber Garland, Gage Barnes, Daniel Crawford
and Tyler Barnard work on a car during their automotive technology class at the
Murray Independent-Calloway County Area Technology Center.
Mitchell McNutt, the school’s automotive technology teacher, said he was surprised the two districts were able to reach an agreement to purchase the building together “because they’ve always had their differences between them.”
But he is “glad they’ve come together” and he noted when he was a student at Calloway County he met some of his best friends at the vocational classes with Murray students.
“I think it’s going to be an asset to the community because as we work together we can do more than we can individually,” McNutt said. “I think that’s going to be a blessing.”
McNutt said in the previous facility, his classroom was in one building and the auto shop was in the other. “Now I’m all in one area, where that makes it a lot easier for teaching.”
He said having a good facility for students to learn is critical and noted the automotive technology field is growing with an older population of mechanics retiring. “Our field is in dire need. This past year I’ve had more phone calls from employers than I’ve ever had in 15 years and they’re looking for good, entry-level technicians.”
Amber Garland, a Calloway County senior, is in her second year in the automotive technology program. She said she plans to be a veterinarian but if that doesn’t work out she would pursue a career as a mechanic or welder.
She said she likes that the new facility is shared and owned equally by both districts, and that students from both schools can get to know each other.
“It’s pretty good that our two schools, even though they’re rival schools, are able to work together and come up with another school building for us to work in,” Garland said.
Murray Independent senior Tuff Wheeler, who is in his third year in the culinary arts program, hopes to parlay his interest in cooking into a career as a culinary teacher.
Wheeler, who plays football for Murray High School, said the best part of the new vocational facility is the whole building is connected, which helps students who are rivals in athletics become friends off the field.
“I get to meet more friends and meet with people, and I really enjoy that.”