Floyd County school leaders are confident that an estimated $14 million project will significantly help students enter burgeoning career fields.
The county Board of Supervisors, which controls the school district’s purse strings, approved a request earlier this month to provide funding for the construction of what FCPS is calling the Collaboration and Career Development Center.
The project also involves the renovation of the current Career and Technical Education building, where the school district plans to move all of its eighth graders.
The existing CTE building is located just across the road from Floyd County High School. That facility houses teaching space for technically oriented trades such as welding, automotive work, construction and health care.
The renovated CTE building will provide room for the expansion of the automotive mechanics and building trades programs, according to plans available on the school district’s website.
Plans show that the new facility will measure approximately 27,500 square feet and will be split into two parts flanking both sides of the existing CTE building.
The new facility will include a “flexible innovation space,” a welding lab and new spaces for the band and chorus, according to plans.
Floyd County School Board Chairman James Ingram said one of the major expectations is the addition of space to accommodate new courses in the fast-growing fields of robotics and cybersecurity.
“We saw this as an opportunity in Floyd to create different programs that would also benefit the community,” Ingram said. “We’re looking at this as a way … to give kids in Floyd a better opportunity.”
School districts, including Montgomery County, have increasingly promoted CTE programs in recent years to try to steer certain students to careers that provide a living wage but do not necessarily require a four-year — and often costly — college degree.
One of the goals with the new Floyd County building is to partner with New River Community College, Radford University, Virginia Tech and local businesses for degrees or certifications “leading to college or job opportunities,” according to the school district’s website.
The project should help Floyd County in the long run lure major employers that often base their locations on the availability of a skilled workforce, Ingram said.
Ingram said he hopes the project, with its plans to provide classroom space for cybersecurity courses, plays a key long-term role in efforts to draw high tech employers to the area.
“We’re looking at this as a way to bring industry to Floyd,” he said. “It gives them a skill set coming right out of high school.
“Everyone knows training is a huge expense for businesses.”
Ingram said the hope is to have the project complete by August of 2021. He said the schools are currently prioritizing some other capital needs, including a major revamp of their heating and cooling systems.
Floyd County Board of Supervisors Chairman Lauren Yoder said the project has been granted approval to begin seeking bids. The result of that process, he said, will determine the project’s exact price.
Yoder said there’s a strong chance Floyd County will need to raise its 60-cent real estate tax rate by another 2 cents to pay off the debt that will be incurred by the project.
Yoder, however, said the county could find that additional 2 cents from reassessment, which is currently happening.
Reassessment determines the values of all taxable properties in a locality and forms half of the equation for real estate tax bills.
Yoder echoed Ingram’s points on the project’s need.
“I think it’s important to the community. It’s one of the big things I’ve said for a long time,” he said. “We’re trying to find ways to promote economic development in Floyd. Creating a technical school certainly will help that … It’s also a way to try to give kids an opportunity, give them some opportunities straight out of high school.”