Auto shop coming to UL

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK Union Local High School vocational teacher Drew Greenwood and architect Jeremy Greenwood review a proposal for an automobile workshop which could be an option for students next year.

BELMONT – A shop class focusing on automotive maintenance may be coming to the Union Local School District.

The district’s board of education voted Thursday to accept bids for a new building in January. Drew Greenwood, vocational teacher, brought the proposal before the school board during Thursday along with Jeremy Greenwood, an architect with GreenCore Designs Inc.

Drew Greenwood said the additional building would allow many new options for the students.

“Basic vehicle maintenance, and then expanding what we have now in our shop — taking the engines, the consumable combustibles out of the wood shop environment and putting them into their own environment, which is much safer,” he said. “More shoulder room to work around. There’s a couple of other ideas. We’ve got the ideas, we just need a structure. We need some space. It’s pretty crowded.”

Jeremy Greenwood estimated the cost at almost $350,000. The building would be 2,600 square feet and would be located adjacent to the other shop facilities. The facility would include a lift for vehicles.

“The space is going to be the most important thing, for them to develop and to be able to utilize it for all kinds of different programs and things,” Jeremy Greenwood said.

Drew Greenwood said the students could work chiefly with small engines, lawnmowers and tractors. The proximity of the proposed building with the welding shop could allow additional crossover of projects in science, technology, engineering and math.

“This opens up a great place for STEM projects and experiments,” Drew Greenwood said, adding that the auto shop would help teach valuable skills.

“Even changing a tire, checking your oil. How many people check their own oil anymore?” Drew Greenwood said, adding that the shop could serve as preparation for a vocational field, as well as teaching basic life skills. “Our focus is on everyday (skills), but if it triggers a passion in someone, then we’re going to take that passion and see where it takes the students.”

“There are plenty of college programs for auto mechanics and design, avenues that could be gotten from this just by being exposed to and working on a vehicle and working on the intricacies,” Jeremy Greenwood added.

A further update is expected for the next meeting, including timeframe and potential costs.

“We’re going to develop a schedule. If things go well, I could actually anticipate a nice spring groundbreaking and to potentially have it open for next fall,” Jeremy Greenwood said.

“It could be 150 to 200 kids could have some kind of use in cross-curricular uses,” Drew Greenwood said. “It’s going to be here and it’s going to be available for every teacher. … The sky’s the limit. It opens up a lot of avenues.”

Drew Greenwood said the community has been very supportive of the shop projects and expansions.

“I know there’s some people who have stressed some concerns and interests with what’s going on,” he said. “Our hopes are to connect our school, our community and our kids.”

Board members noted the expansion of projects in the vocational classes under Greenwood’s direction. Superintendent Ben Porter commended his initiative.

Last school year saw the addition of hydroponics and aquaponics at Union Local. Enrollment in the school’s shop classes has more than doubled from 41 high school students last year to 83 students this year.