Vocational center humming | SteamboatToday.com

Vocational center humming

Grand opening set for Saturday at new Hayden High School building

Blythe Terrell

One of Kevin Kleckler’s former students dropped by the new vocational education center Tuesday to check things out.

“We never worked on anything like this when I was here,” said Bryan Birch, strolling around a bright blue 1965 Mustang.

“That’s because it’s mine,” said Kleckler, director of career and technical education at Hayden High School. He showed Birch, a 2007 graduate, around the $1.6 million Babson-Carpenter Career and Technical Education Center.

The main auto area, where students have been working on the brakes of Kleckler’s ride, can hold 18 vehicles. Another room, where parts of a paint booth sat, can hold six vehicles. A ’57 Chevrolet pickup, a raggedy Jeep and a smashed-up Jimmy took up one wall Tuesday.

Hayden students were welding and working in the sprawling building, but the big unveiling will involve a grand opening Saturday. The event includes a free car show (watch for Kleckler’s Mustang), as well as tours, a ribbon cutting and a barbecue provided by general contractor Fox Construction.

About 100 students, including those in evening courses, have been using the building, Kleckler said. Freshman Kelsea DeBowes is taking his afternoon welding class.

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“It’s my favorite class because it’s just more fun than the rest, and we don’t have to study out of a book,” Kelsea said. “We get hands-on with fire.”

Kelsea said she was learning to weld for the first time. She works alongside four other girls and five boys, and the experience has sparked her interest.

“I want to keep welding and get certified,” Kelsea said.

The building also has offices and space for computer-aided drafting and mechanical drafting. Kleckler said the school has raised $1.3 million of the price for the center and hopes to come up with the other $300,000.

The school takes donated vehicles to work on, Kleckler said. The vocational technology center does not do repairs for money, he said.

“We either take donated vehicles to use or buy vehicles and fix them up and sell them,” Kleckler said. That’s “because we do not want to compete with local tradesmen. : They’re trying to feed their families.”

Down the hall from the main mechanical shop, Kelsea’s class was welding steadily Tuesday afternoon. Top-40 country blared as they worked, hidden behind protective masks and goggles.

Outside, two boys sprayed primer on trailers. Seniors Levi Hallock and Braylin Wertenberger built the trailers from scratch, Hallock said.

Hallock said he had taken vocational courses before the new center was built.

“We had a pretty small shop before, with limited resources,” he said. “We had kind of short space in there. Now we have more room to work around in there, more room to put projects in there.”

Hallock said he had taken auto body and diesel mechanics classes. He has earned welding certification and hopes to own his own business.

Birch, a couple of years out of the program, never used the new building. He admired the changes from the time when he and fellow students clambered into one room to stake a claim on tools.

Kleckler laughed with Birch as they recalled what used to be where the Babson-Carpenter building stands.

“There was this little valley,” Kleckler said. “We called it the bone yard. We just threw junk out here.”

– To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234

or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com