Courtesy Wall School DistrictCourtesy Elizabeth Meighen

Wall School Breaks Ground For Career And Technical Education Building

It is the goal of the South Dakota Department of Education (SD-DOE) for all students to complete high school, graduate from college and enter the adult world “life ready”.  As the country kids of Wall school would know from growing up on the ranch or the farm, that would be something their folks would identify as being “field ready”. The Wall School District moved one step closer to creating an educational environment conducive to attaining those goals for their students.  
During a special meeting conducted on Sept. 20, the Wall School District School Board (WSD-SB) moved to approve a bid submitted by Robert C. Shull Construction, Inc. (RCS) for the construction of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) facility that will be adding 10,287 square feet to the northwest side of the existing school. The meeting attendees included local business leaders who expressed their support for the multimillion-dollar project. Those present at the meeting included Denny Law, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Golden West Telecommunications; Dick Johnson, CEO and general manager of West River Electric Association, Inc.; and, Mary Williams, the mayor of Wall. Williams informed the WSD-SB that the city of Wall also supports the facility and its programs. She told those attending the meeting that the city approved the building permit for the new facility. 
On Oct. 18, a multitude gathered on the Wall School District campus to celebrate and witness the groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new CTE facility. Hardhats and shovels gleamed in the afternoon sun. It was a beautiful day as members of the school board, project contractors and facility administrators ceremoniously broke the ground for the new multimillion dollar facility. The programs instituted at the new facility will literally give students the tools to complete high school then to move into the job market with skill sets that provide a sustainable income or enable them to continue beyond high school and obtain a higher education at an academic institution offering a two - or four-year academic program at a vocational-technical or a traditional university.
Ridge Sandal, a WSD schoolboard member and graduate of WSD, spoke at the ceremony noting that “we sat down and had a vision of what we wanted and hoped that we could create a space that students would want to use, would go into if we give them that opportunity to do it. I was a student who enjoyed shop and saw the benefit [for students]. I came to the WSD-SB later and this is something I want to see it come to fruition. Some guys go through four, seven or 12 years of school. It is rigorous and that is your gift. We want you to pursue it. For others, maybe that’s not your thing. You are equally important. I hope you know that. Using this facility, you can explore some of the careers where you can excel…Let’s get to digging”. 
The basis for the construction of the dedicated facility is its ability to offer academic programs focusing upon the employment market options available for today’s students and the evolution of the job market to direct career opportunities for tomorrow’s students. Dr. Pandi Pittman, the superintendent for the WSD, noted that as early as 2005, the conversation turned to expansion of the facility to accommodate programs preparing students for their career choices in adulthood. The WSD-SB, school administrators and support staff began work behind the scenes in 2021 to obtain the accreditation necessary for the WSD to accommodate the academic and application aspects of the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the Information Technology Programs. These programs represent two of the 16 career clusters offered through the CTE program. The agriculture program allows the student to become vital to the “production, processing, marketing, distribution, financing, and development of agricultural commodities and resources including food, fiber, wood products, natural resources, horticulture, and other plant and animal products/resources”. The Information Technology programs allow students to enter technical and professional careers related to the “design, development, support and management of hardware, software, multimedia and systems integrations services”. 
In October 2022, the WSD-SB approved master design plans from Architect Incorporated, Rapid City to design a facility. The Rapid City contractors for the project include RCS, as the general contractor; Skyline Engineering, L.L.C, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers; FMG Engineering, Inc., serving consulting civil and geotechnical engineers; and, Albertson Engineering Inc., providing its services as structural engineers. Construction will commence immediately, and the $4.3 million dollar facility will be ready for classroom instruction and training in August 2024. Dr. Pittman noted that the WSD currently employs the teachers and support staff for the CTE program once the facility has been completed before classroom instruction begins in August 2024.    
According to the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (SD-GOED), South Dakota has two statewide CTE Consortiums which help and promote the CTE and its importance, with 20-30 school districts belonging to each of them. Fawn Hall directs the Western Statewide CTE Consortium. She noted the consortiums help encourage and strengthen relationships between school districts throughout South Dakota by making connections and by hosting opportunities. Hall noted that, “every day it is becoming more apparent how vital a trained workforce is to South Dakota’s economy. When businesses partner with local school districts, it helps students to experience work-based learning, understand the career path they are choosing, accelerate faster into the workforce, and see valuable career choices in their local community”, she said. “It also helps the businesses to develop an immediate and long-term pipeline of trained workers”.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of the employment market and the classroom have changed in the last four years. Virtual learning and working remotely through meeting-based platforms such as Zoom brought significant changes to today’s employment market. Local or regional businesses may look to the high school graduates to fulfill positions within the local workforce. Perfect examples of such employers include the local telecommunications and electric company for career choices in information technology or coursework that helps the next generation successfully manage their family’s multigenerational farm or ranch based upon coursework provided through the CTE programs throughout the state.
Dr. Pittman noted the Wall CTE project is “designed to have room and flexibility to grown and advances with needs in the workforce”. With the ever changing job market, these opportunities create a labor force that is marketable for the next generation of students.

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