Demolition is underway in the shop areas at Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson High Schools to clear the way for remodeling and reconfiguration.

The demolition project is the first phase of upgrades planned at the schools as part of an expansion of the Council Bluffs Community School District’s Career and Technical Education program, which will be called a trades academy. The district will add electrical technology and plumbing, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration to its current offerings of automotive technology, welding and carpentry-construction technology.

Work started Wednesday.

“This is an exciting time as we prepare to strategically provide foundational experiences in trades to students at both Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson,” said Vickie Murillo, superintendent of Council Bluffs Community School District. “The academy will provide exposure to multiple trades in the first two years of high school so students can identify an area of specialization for future coursework in conjunction with diploma, certificate and associate’s programs at Iowa Western Community College.”

Students who take trades classes during their freshman and sophomore years in high school may be able to enroll in an Iowa Western program during their junior and senior years. Students would still need to take core classes at their high schools and acquire credits needed for graduation. Those who start trades classes during their junior and senior years could position themselves for further training after high school, and those who decide trades aren’t for them could finish high school on the college prep track.

The district Board of Education accepted a bid of $320,170 from Andersen Construction for the demolition work during its meeting Tuesday. Demolition is scheduled to be “substantially complete” by Aug. 10, according to Staci Pettit, director of facilities, maintenance and custodial services.

The school district has been offered a $500,000 anonymous donation, which will more than cover the first phase, Pettit said.

At Abraham Lincoln, workers will need to remove a wall between an existing office and a storage area, she said. During the construction phase to follow, six virtual welding booths will be installed and an office for two staff members will be built in a different spot. Hands-on welding opportunities are currently offered at the Tucker Center.

At Thomas Jefferson, a wall will be removed and an office moved to an existing storage area, Pettit said. The storage area will be cleared out and classrooms updated. The school’s robotics program will continue to be housed in the area. At T.J., more mechanical and electrical equipment need to be removed and replaced. Some lines will have to be removed and relocated when the wall is taken out.

The areas need demolition work to make room for new equipment, improve sight lines for teachers and facilitate infrastructure upgrades, Pettit said.

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“We’re just opening them up,” she said.

Officials hope architectural firm HGM will have plans and specifications for Phase II, the construction phase, finished by this fall so bids can be collected by October, Pettit said. Construction would start in late November, and completion is scheduled for August 2019. The second phase is expected to cost a little more than $1.1 million.

“We’re trying to find donors to help with this project,” she said.

The district will hire an additional teacher at each high school to cover the additional programming.

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