LEWISTON, Idaho – When Lewis-Clark State College opens its new state-of-the-art Schweitzer Career & Technical Education Center on Friday, a lot of eyes will be watching around Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.
Eyes will be watching how a college-high school CTE collaboration will work and serve as an example for others. Eyes will watch how the new center, which has the potential to double the capacity of LC State’s CTE programs, will serve to meet evolving demands of area industries. And eyes will watch the endless possibilities the center can and will create.
College officials are looking forward to showing off the 86,159-square foot facility during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday at 9 a.m., followed by small group guided tours at 10 a.m. The public is invited to the free event and college COVID-19 protocols will be followed, which mandate face coverings be worn during the tours and outside when social distancing cannot be maintained.
The Schweitzer CTE Center, which has an overall project price tag of more than $27 million, is located in the Lewiston Orchards and just a block away from the new Lewiston High School and the A. Neil DeAtley Career Technical Center. It’s the first time in Idaho that a regional high school and a college worked together to create a CTE hub for both students and industry.
“The opportunity to create and sustain physical and curricular pathways in career technical education, from high school to college and ultimately to career, is a shining star example of education partnership, and collaboration, that will benefit students, industry, our community, region and state,” LC State President Cynthia Pemberton said.
LC State and Lewiston High have been partners in this process from the beginning stages. The idea came about five years ago during discussions between then LC State President J. Anthony (Tony) Fernandez and Lewiston School District Superintendent Robert (Bob) Donaldson. The two made several trips together to Boise and eventually were invited to attend then Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State Address in Boise where he outlined a plan to give the college $10 million for part of the project. At that time, the state had recently opened two new higher education CTE facilities, but nothing like what LC State and Lewiston High had planned.
[photo looking from LHS toward the Schweitzer CTE Center] LC State and Lewiston High officials worked together on CTE curriculum so that the programs offered by both would align and help students make a seamless transition from the high school to LC State.
“The underlying theme to our story was packaging – we are doing this together,” Donaldson said. “We got local industry to really see the value of this co-relationship. They understood the importance of having students go through our technical program, and then never leave the campus area, and get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and be ready to be employed in our valley.”
Lewiston opened its new CTE building and high school this fall. With the two buildings operating at the start of the spring semester in January, the challenge now becomes coordinating all the moving pieces. LC State and LHS officials said much work has gone into these efforts and will continue as both centers become utilized.
“I’ve already threatened that we are going to be wearing a path between those two buildings because we have been doing a lot of work together,” said Jeff Ober, dean of CTE at LC State. “I’ve been talking with the folks from the school district for over a year now on coordinating how we can help them bring those students and what kind of crossover we can get, and what kind of dual credit we can get.”
Ober said some of the discussions have been on how to bring the high school students over to the college center to best utilize the student’s time and the facility. He said they are trying to find places in the student’s schedule during the week or specific days where they can possibly walk down a block and take a class at the college, or learn about new technology.
“It’s exciting because while some would look at this and say it’s just another building, it’s not really another building because it is very specifically designed,” Ober said. “Dr. Schweitzer (owner of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories) recognized this is a great way to let everybody in the region, from student to adults, know that hey, you can live here, you can grow up here, you can train here, and you can get a job here. And that coordination between the CTE regional high school and the CTE college is going to be unique in the state of Idaho.”
[photo looking from Schweitzer CTE Center main entry toward LHS] Both Lewiston High and LC State ran into an unexpected challenge this year with the COVID-19 pandemic. The high school CTE center is a regional center that serves students in north central Idaho. Prior to the pandemic, LHS officials visited several schools and discussed transportation to the center along with monetary aspects. However, a lot of that had to go on the backburner as area school districts deal with the pandemic.
“This vision is still there,” Donaldson said. “There’s a real strong interest in this region.”
Ober said the ongoing discussions will include how to get the rural students to come to both buildings.
“We are talking about coordinating classes, sending instructors back and forth, and potentially sending students back and forth,” Ober said. “We’ve had to coordinate on a lot of things already, like making sure we don’t both buy the same piece of equipment and that we both have access to different kinds of equipment.”
Area industry also has played a big role in both CTE centers, helping with the curriculum so that students can graduate and obtain a job without further training. Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories will even provide an instructor for LC State’s Industrial Electronics program.
“The conversations we are having with everyone have been very positive,” Donaldson said. “They all realize the benefit of the relationship between the high school and the college.”