West Greene plans facilities updates

In an initiative to prepare students to be productive citizens, West Greene School District has announced it will be renovating its vocational agriculture and STEAM facilities.

In a press release from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Governor Wolf reported 71% of jobs in Pennsylvania require a background update in computers and new technologies.

After looking at those statistics, Eric Gaydos, district academic director, said West Greene felt renovations were critical to what they were doing as a school district, which is providing “educational opportunities to maximize individual potential,” as outlined in their mission statement.

The vocational agriculture and STEAM programs will prepare students for careers in the coal, oil and gas industries, all of which Gaydos said are the driving economic force of Greene County. He described these industries, as well as others in the community, as generational.

“A lot of our kids have that ingrained knowledge just from … working with their father [or] grandfather. Again, you’re talking to people that have owned farms for generations … They are born into it,” Gaydos said. “Our programs provide them with that knowledge to keep that going because that is an important part of our identity.”

The project will provide West Greene with the resources they need to better prepare students for the advancement in technology within these industries. 

“This renovation is going to give us the tools and resources to not only offer the current curriculum in a more efficient and interesting manner, but to also provide the opportunity to create new courses for our students to take,” Gaydos said. “With the technology that comes with it, they’re going to be exposed to the technology that is in the field today.”

The renovation includes expanding classrooms, as well as implementing new state-of-the-art equipment and a makerspace.

“We’re going to incorporate a makerspace that will allow students to not only analyze what they’re doing in class but to actually synthesize and create something that demonstrates a higher level of mastery than just taking an assessment,” Gaydos said.

These renovations will not only benefit the students looking for future careers in these programs but all students. Gaydos said the skills students gain from these programs carry over to other cross curriculum content areas, outside of STEAM. These skills are important to all future employers.

The project will cost roughly $2 to $3 million and is looking to be completed for the 2020-21 school year. 

As reported in a West Greene School District press release, the project will be funded through multiple state grants. 

The district was awarded $32,490 from the Ag and Youth Grant Program, which was created through the passage of the PA Farm Bill last year. This program has provided a total of $500,000 to 55 projects statewide and will now assist with the completion of this project. 

A West Greene press release reported, $7,490 of the grant was awarded to enable its agricultural mechanics program to upgrade its fume extraction unit, while the rest of the money was awarded as a matching grant to upgrade the district’s agriculture education facilities. 

The district also applied for other grants to cover the cost of the rest of the renovation, one of which was the Pennsylvania Smart Grant, a grant to expand computer science classes and teacher training at 163 school districts, charter schools and intermediate units in the Pittsburgh area. 

Once the renovations are complete, Gaydos said their doors will be open.

“If there’s a way that we can develop partnerships with any of the other local Greene County school districts [or] with Waynesburg University, we’re always open to share resources [and] to work together.”