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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (AR-3) speaks during the announcement for the $1.4 million Economic Development Administration grant that was awarded to the Fort Smith School District at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.

FORT SMITH -- The Fort Smith School District has received considerable aid to help build a center to prepare students in a variety of fields.

Fort Smith School District Superintendent Doug Brubaker announced the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration approved a $1.4 million grant for the Fort Smith Public Schools Career Technology Center.

Brubaker said the center will be a place where students can learn skills to be better prepared to either progress to higher learning in health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing and the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art, and math, or be able to enter the workforce directly after high school and make a "really good" salary.

The district, Brubaker said, opened a dialogue with the community about the future of education in Fort Smith and Barling over two years ago. This resulted in Vision 2023, a five-year strategic plan that was approved by the Fort Smith School Board in December 2017 and includes seven areas of focus.

One of these areas was career planning, which entails developing and implementing education and career pathways so that each student graduates with a viable plan and relevant skill set for his or her future. Other areas of focus in the plan include instruction, learning environment, and facilities and technology.

"One of the key components of Vision 2023 and the capital improvement program developed to support it was the expansion of our efforts to prepare students for high tech careers, including a new 50,000 square foot career and technology center with a focus on the fields of advanced manufacturing, information technology and health care," Brubaker said.

Fort Smith and Barling residents went on to approve a millage increase to generate $121 million to fund this and other key projects in May 2018, Brubaker said. In addition, the estate of local businessman William L. Hutcheson donated a 182,000 square foot building earlier this year to serve as a site for the expansion of career and technology education and a new center for advanced learning in the science, technology, engineering, art, and math disciplines.

The Career Technology Center project, Brubaker said, is currently in the design process. The facility, located at the corner of Zero Street and Painter Lane in Fort Smith, is due to be open in the fall of 2021. Fort Smith School District Deputy Superintendent Terry Morawski said the district looks to begin construction this spring.

"We all know that preparing the skilled work force of tomorrow, actually for today, is one of the most important things, I think, on our agenda as a people," U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, said.

"Not lost on me is the fact that everywhere I go, when I talk to job creators, they almost unanimously tell me that there is a lot of need out there for a skilled workforce, and we are answering that demand here today with this announcement."

A news release from the U.S. Department of Commerce states the EDA grant, which will be located near a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $8.53 million in local funds. It is expected to help create 165 jobs and retain 260.

NW News on 10/01/2019

Print Headline: Fort Smith School District receives $1.4 million grant

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