LISBON, Ohio — In 2013, Jeremy Corbisello, director of the Columbiana County Career & Technical Center, wanted to rebuild the school’s agriculture program.
Three years and 250 yards of concrete later, the former equine facility has been renewed as the home of the Veterinary Science Technology and Landscape and Environmental Design programs.
An open house was held at the $1.1 million renovated facility Oct. 27, spotlighting the new 30-by-40 foot greenhouse, new labs and classroom space and the redesigned, open expanse of the former horse arena now housing the landscape and design work space.
Three years ago, the career and technical center hired John Garwood to start a new landscape program, and the first students came in as juniors, or Level 1 students, in the fall of 2014. Eleven of those students graduated from the program in May 2016, Garwood said.
At the beginning of the school year, Corbisello asked Garwood, “What do you need out there?”
“Ask me again at the end of the year,” Garwood responded.
And so the center director returned to the instructor in the spring with the same question, and from that conversation came the plan to renovate the existing equine facility to a more workable classroom, greenhouse and training building.
Corbisello said Garwood “asked the right questions of the right people” to help develop the vision of the new facility as well as the program’s design.
“The project wouldn’t be what it is without John Garwood,” he added.
In return, Garwood credited Corbisello and Superintendent Willard (Chuck) Adkins for their foresight.
“For a project of this size, you have to have not only a plan, but a vision,” Garwood said.
During the reconstruction, the horse stalls were removed and the arena cleaned out. New electric, including LED lighting systems, heating and cooling systems, and water systems were upgraded throughout the facility before the inner skin was completed. Renovation included an area for the small equipment, including a wash bay and new drainage, with an outside pit for solids.
The facility now includes two additional classrooms, including one with computer simulators that provide safety and operating training for small equipment like forklifts and skid loaders; storage, a second lab area, and the greenhouse.
The greenhouse, which will be open to the public at various times of the year, was designed and installed by Arcadia GlassHouse, of Madison, Ohio. It features an automated ventilation and temperature control system; misters and a timed drip irrigation system that can be regulated into four different zones depending on the plants’ needs; adjustable grow lights; concrete floor and aluminum benches.
There are risers on one of the tables for more plants and room for 90 hanging baskets.
It has a reverse gable on the side entrance to mimic a retail store look, and Garwood said students’ training includes the business side of a retail operation, including profit and loss accounting and customer service.
First-year student Chris Briggs, of Salem, said he had no plans to attend the career center until he visited the facility as a sophomore. He’s glad he decided to enroll in the landscape program, and earlier this fall was part of the urban soil judging team that qualified for the state FFA contest.
“The instructors and teachers work with every individual person,” he added. “They give you the extra help when you need it.
He says his whole outlook on school has changed and he looks forward to it, and would recommend other students consider enrolling at the career center.
“Come here and it’ll change your attitude,” he advised younger students. “It gives you a jump start on life.”
Anchoring the new facility is the Veterinary Science Technology program, which has 35 students this year, including 19 seniors, according to program coordinator and instructor Darrell Bevelhymer. Of the graduates, 35 to 40 percent go on to college or technical schools, he added.
Students learn business management principles as well as veterinary science, and are handling small animals almost daily. Large animals are brought in for specific units.
In addition to the building blocks of technical and business training, the career center programs emphasize safety, and students complete a 10-hour OSHA training safety course.
Garwood said he works closely with an advisory committee to make sure the program design parallels what’s going on in the real world, and he brings in outside speakers from the trade to kindle students’ passion.
“This investment will allow the program to grow, but it will also allow young adults to grow,” Garwood said. “I tell the students if you pay attention, the skills that you learn here will transition to almost anything in life.”
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