Walla Walla skills center takes step ahead

Students will be able to take courses in construction, welding, renewable resources and health occupations at the new center.

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Washington State Skills Center: www.washingtonskillscenters.org

Tri-Tech Skills Center, Kennewick: www.ksd.org/tritech

WALLA WALLA — Construction of a regional skills center for high school students moved forward Tuesday night after a vote by the Walla Walla School Board.

The board accepted the low bid from Leone and Keeble Inc. of Spokane for $8.3 million to build the Southeast Area Technical Skills Center at Walla Walla Community College. Subcontractors on the project include Walla Walla Electric, and Cutting Edge Plumbing & Mechanical, two local firms.

The School District has been leasing land at the college the last few years for about $1 a year while it awaited money from the state to build the center.

In April 2012, the state allocated $10.35 million for the center, after several years of supporting the project through the conceptual and design phases.

The board unanimously approved two resolutions Tuesday that move the project forward. The resolutions allow the state to free up funds, and construction is expected to start in April. The center should be finished in the summer of 2014, and open to students that fall.

The center is being built with nearly complete funding from the state. The Walla Walla School District was responsible for 10 percent of the project, and met the requirement through the value of the land it is leasing at WWCC over 30 years.

The project was delayed in September when the School Board rejected bids because they all came in over budget. At that point, the district asked architects to scale the project back before new bids were sought.

The center is being developed as a branch campus of the Kennewick School District’s Tri-Tech Skills Center.

The center will offer courses in construction trades, welding, renewable resources and health occupation programs to high school students in Walla Walla, College Place, Dayton, Waitsburg, Touchet and Prescott. There may also be partnerships to reach students in private high schools and the Milton-Freewater School District.

The Walla Walla School District projects the skills center will serve about 60 full-time students when it opens, and grow to 160 full-time students. High school students will attend for a three-period block in the morning or afternoon. Career and technical education courses at Walla Walla High School will still be offered.

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