The auto repair lab at Thornton’s Bollman Technical Center, with numerous bays and lifts and brand new sets of tools, is the envy of professional shops, according to the school’s students.
“It really allows me to get the experience I need as a student, as if I were working in an actual shop,” said Diesel repair student Noelle Forcher. “I am working in an actual shop.”
Bollman and Adams County District 12’s entire career tech program is in the middle of a two-year renovation program, so school and district officials decided to open the building’s doors Oct. 24. The school hosted an open house to showcase the school’s programs and show where the renovations are so far.
“This was the date we had scheduled for our advisory committee meetings for all of our programs,” said Principal Janet Renden. “That brings in business and industry representatives with parents, students. We figured that since the advisory members would be here anyway, we’d just do an open house.”
The district began work in July on Future Forward at Washington Square, a brand new career and technical program campus for Adams 12 students at 126th Avenue and Washington Street. The new facility is on track to be finished in the fall of 2020.
It will supplement programs being offered at Bollman, at 90th and Washington, and Renden said she hopes it will let them expand the number of students they can teach.
“This year we accepted 1,350 students and that was a record us,” Renden said. “That’s just for this campus. But even with that, we had to turn away 400 students we just couldn’t accommodate.”
Renovations at Bollman began this summer, creating a student common area and maximizing the space for the automotive program. That program already offers classes along two tracks, automotive technology and diesel.
“We should be able to serve about 900 students in the building,” she said.
The Washington Square work is set to coincide with renovations at the district’s Bollman campus. The new construction at Bollman removed the walls in the automotive area, creating one long repair bay. Forcher, of Federal Heights, said the students can pull a car in at one end and exit at the other.
“It has definitely opened the shop a lot,” said Forcher, who is completing her first year in the diesel program. “So, when I work in the shop I have room to do what I need to do. It also allows for us to have better tech and that allows us to do different things.”
It’s also raised the roof, allowing students to put much larger vehicles on the lifts, including diesel tractors used to haul trailers.
“It used to be three different, small shops,” Forcher said. “Now it’s opened up.”
That’s important for students studying along the diesel track, like Gonzalez and Forcher, according to diesel program teacher Ian Matje. Bollman’s diesel program this year expanded to 3,000 square feet with this summer’s renovations. The new location, at Washington Park, will expand to 5,000 square feet.
“We were able to add level one course, when we had two-level one courses and a level two course before,” Matje said. “Now we have three level-one courses this year, so it’s growing exponentially.
It’s been good enough training that the students can qualify to work in professional garages. Gonzalez said he works in a Cummins engine garage outside of school.
“Kids love to work on their own vehicles, but this industry is a great way to make a lot of money right out of school,” Matje said. “We have places like RTD hiring at $25 an hour, right out of school. We have the school to work program for students as young as 16 and they can make $17, $18 per hour while they are still in school.”
Forcher said she and Gonzalez have different perspectives. He started in the original smaller space before the renovations and now works in larger area.
“It’s a drastic change, Gonzalez said. “I wish I had pictures. There were walls everywhere and it’s a 40-year-old facility, so everything was dingy and disgusting. Now they’ve cleaned it all out, added windows and changed everything around.”
The diesel program as well welding program will move to the northern location when it’s completed.
Designs call for a 49,500 square foot building with six classrooms, three learning labs and three high bay labs at the new location.
The classrooms and labs will also support programs for criminal justice, forensic science, emergency medical training, construction programs and fire science — with one of the high bay labs used as a space for emergency program scenarios. A nearby work yard is included in the property for the programs to use as well.
Bollman, which opened in 1974, will continue to offer a medical science program, auto technician courses, engineering, graphic design, video production and computer science. Potential new programming is tentatively expected to include an auto body collision program as well as new manufacturing courses.
The project is part of the bond vote $350 million bond package that voters approved in 2016. That package was aimed at improving the school’s aging infrastructure and programs, with a significant portion dedicated to improving career and technical programs.