Centered on learning
Old middle school adapts to fit new programs
Compared with what culinary arts teacher Jason Gray had to start a program with in Olathe, the facility at Eudora's vocational education center is a treat. Housed in the former Eudora Middle School home economics rooms, Gray has a former sewing room as a classroom and the former foods center as a laboratory, of sorts, for the budding chefs.
As soon as the kitchen is in shape, Gray said he would begin having the students unpack the kitchen tools and place them in the kitchen unit that would be theirs for the year.
"It's going to be like Christmas," he said.
Although Gray said he was thankful for the space at the Millcreek Center, converting what had been a library and later a child development center into culinary arts classrooms was challenging. In Eudora, however, the center can convert the classroom into a dining room, complete with napkins and tablecloths, while the students can apply their skills in the already-existing kitchen.
"To have gas -- that's what the industry uses -- is great," Gray said.
The culinary arts program is one of three vocational education programs that have made their home in parts of the former Eudora Middle School building, at 10th and Main Streets, since that school moved to 2635 Church St.
Greenbush Educational Consortium has already expanded its programs out of the Millcreek Center in Olathe -- from a building trades program in Basehor-Linwood's school district to a computer systems program in Lansing to video-conferencing health careers programs at several schools across the state. So moving into Eudora -- and adding two programs in De Soto -- is old hat for the group.
"It's just another way to serve students in small schools," said Associate Executive Director Ralph Beecham. "One of Greenbush's primary goals is to start up at small schools."
So far, about 45 students attend the three different two-year Eudora programs -- culinary arts, health career sciences and auto collision repair. Area high school students -- including Eudorans -- attend the half-day classes in addition to their regular high school work.
Millcreek Director Rick Tremain said the auto collision program was already offered in morning and afternoon sessions, but he hoped the other two programs would also offer afternoon sessions in the future.
Moreover, Tremain said he hoped the center could expand to include welding and industrial engineering. Greenbush added programs based both on student interest and employment trends, he said.
"The Eudora students are really super," Tremain said. "It's working out nicely."
Stirring things up
Although the center's teachers had to wait until late July to move in -- after the middle school had moved out -- things were coming together for Gray's culinary arts program, which already has a dinner night event in the works.
Having three kitchen areas will allow students to try out different aspects of restaurant service during the dinner nights, with each area preparing a different aspect of the meal.
"We'd like to have industrial equipment, but it's better than in the past," Gray said.
Although the program will make use of the former home economics room, Gray said the emphasis was different for culinary arts students than home economics students.
"We don't focus on the recipe as much as the techniques," he said.
The program does focus on more than cooking and table service, too. The program also teaches students math, communication and other skills.
"We try to put all the academics into it," he said.
One aspect of all three programs is the degree to which they prepare students for a career right out of high school. The culinary arts program has students receiving food handling certification, whereas the health career sciences program has students taking tests in January for entry-level certification.
Because of HIPPA laws, that was important for those working in health careers to have, said Linda Pfeffer, a registered nurse who teaches the class.
She said the course included both bookwork, like anatomy and physiology, as well as lab work in a former middle school science lab. In place of beakers and Bunsen burners are hospital beds and rubber gloves. Pfeffer said the lab allowed students to learn the basics of working in healthcare, like infection control, sterile procedures and how to move patients in beds --skills that were basic to any health career.
In the lab Tuesday, students practiced sterile procedures like putting on gloves, as well as filling syringes, although giving injections isn't part of the curriculum.
"It's not only skills, but focusing on infection control and safety," Pfeffer said. "There's lots of applications for them to really work on."
Although the students are spending a lot of time in the lab for the first part of the semester, later on Pfeffer said they would gain experience in the field when spending two days a week working alongside patients.
"They are so employable afterward," Pfeffer said.
Moreover, she said about 80 percent of students who completed the program went on to study the healthcare field further.
Students come out of auto collision repair learning the skills they need to get a job in an auto shop, said instructor Heath Daniel. A collision technician at the entry level needs to know sheet metal repair and paint work, as well as identifying damage. Moreover, Daniel said the program also taught students welding, frame damage, and shop safety, including meeting OSHA requirements.
Daniel said the program used donated cars as well as those from the public so long as the repairs fit what the program was trying to teach. When the students left the program, he said they could take a certification test with the knowledge and skills they gained in the course.
To convert the former high school and middle school shop area into an auto collision repair center will mean adding a paint booth to one shop area while most of the repair will take place in the other. Sandwiched in the middle is a classroom, the walls of which Daniel said he tried to decorate with automobile and racing-related paraphernalia that fit the students' program.
"It keeps them jumping and happy," he said.
Moreover, Daniel said he planned to have students doing a lot of the renovation of the old shop building themselves, including getting their input on what they've seen in other auto shops that they'd like to have in their own, too.
"It gives the kids a chance to have ownership of the program," he said.