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Open house showcases new uses for former MoDOT buildings in WS


New Willow Springs High School facilities and the programs housed within them were showcased at an open house held Tuesday evening, hosted by the district with tours guided by instructors and students. The facility, off of Springfield Road, was formerly the site of Missouri Department of Transportation offices and recently purchased by the school district from the City of Willow Springs for $1.

Some interior improvements and equipment purchases were made using American Recovery Plan Act funds approved by the Howell County Commission.

Since then some interior work has been done by students in Brad Siler's carpentry classes, also housed in the building dubbed Innovation Hall, and part of the district's Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program.

Established classes in aviation and engineering, carpentry, criminal justice, multimedia production, graphic design and business are held there with the aim of getting students prepared for careers and professional certifications with hands-on experience.

Aviation and engineering classes, for example, are taught by Matt Knapp, and his two-year basic aviation program covers drone piloting with a goal of preparing students to take the Part 107 commercial drone certification test. It is also an introduction to conventional airplane piloting skills.

Knapp is also an engineering instructor, teaching an essentials course that introduces students to engineering careers and practical applications.

Criminal justice is a two-year program taught by Jerry Wickens, and includes classes on the American criminal justice system with an emphasis on law enforcement, U.S. Constitutional law and state criminal code, basic defense, professional ethics, evidence procedure, and investigation. When completed, students will earn APCO (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials) Public Safety Telecommunicator and Missouri Law Enforcement Skills and Knowledge certifications.

Siler's carpentry program concludes with an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) 10 Construction Certification, plus qualification for apprenticeship and advanced placement through the Carpenter's Union of Springfield. Multimedia classes taught by Sabrina Lee expose students to practical applications in video and audio production and digital broadcast, graphic design and web design, in addition to the production of 3D printed objects, banners and printed vinyl products, including perforated window coverings.

The second building featured during the open house, the Bear Training Facility, is located just north of Innovation Hall on Ferguson Street, and is used for athletes and students in weight training classes.

Enhancement of the CTE program has been in the works since early 2021, with discussions between Willow Springs school district and city officials to develop a plan and partnership around the facility.

Future plans are to house agriculture and family and consumer sciences classes in another building, bringing all CTE programs into one facility.