The Delaware Area Career Center held a grand opening Thursday for the recently completed Consolidated Campus, which now houses all DACC programs and classes.
The Delaware Area Career Center Board of Education, as well as members of the community, were invited to tour the campus, located at 4565 Columbus Pike, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.
The consolidated campus is the expanded former DACC South Campus, and itt now features general classrooms so students no longer have to leave the DACC to study general education classes. Also contained on the updated campus are unique education spaces built specifically for each program, and a wing of high bay labs to accommodate programs like construction and automotive.
In fall 2013, the DACC BOE requested a feasibility study regarding consolidating campuses, and in December 2014, the board approved the plans to consolidate the North and South campuses at the South Campus location. In January 2016, the board approved the $45 million project, and construction began in September 2016.
The project hit a snag in January 2017 when the DACC learned that the renewal levy passed by Delaware County voters in 2015 did not appear on the ballot for 1,026 voters in Franklin, Marion, Morrow, and Union counties. Delaware County voters passed the levy by 10,644 votes, but because the levy didn’t appear on the ballot in the other counties, the Ohio Department of Taxation refused to certify the levy.
The board of education then made plans to pause construction when the new addition at South Campus was deemed structurally sound and planned to resume construction after a levy replacing the 2015 had been certified by the Delaware County Board of Elections. The board voted to pause the construction in May 2017 and voted in November 2017 to begin construction again after House Bill 124, which allowed the levy to be put on the ballot that November in Franklin, Marion, Morrow and Union counties, was signed by then-Gov. John Kasich. The bill was authored by then-state Rep. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, and state Rep. Rick Carfagna, R-Genoa Township.
DACC Treasurer Christopher Bell oversaw the project and worked with the board to manage costs and budgets during the construction, break, resumption, and completion of the campus.
“It’s satisfying to see the project finally done,” Bell said Thursday while standing in the Consolidated Campus. “I (feel a sense of) relief, pride and accomplishment. It’s great to see all the staff and students. They bring the campus back to life.”
Construction Program instructor Gene Scott, who was giving tours of his new classroom and high-bay lab Thursday, said he’s still getting use to his new space.
“I feel like I quit and got hired at a new school,” Scott joked. “I feel like a new teacher, but this is my 24th year.”
Scott said he’s excited to have his students start building a house this year and giving students hands-on training.
Tom Kaelber, the DACC board member representing Buckeye Valley Local Schools, said he’s been a member of the board for more than a decade.
“It’s a highlight (of my tenure),” Kaelber said. “It’s what we’ve worked on since I became a member of this board 11 years ago. The vision has been there. It’s just been a difficult process, but it has all paid off and this building is awesome. We should all be proud, in Delaware County.”
Ted Backus, the DACC board member representing Delaware City Schools, said the community and staff were involved in the planning process from the beginning. He added it was nice to see the plans come to fruition.
“When we started planning this, we had a direction of where we wanted to go,” Backus said. “We spent a lot of time with the community making sure what is it we wanted to have here. It’s so nice to see everything we envisioned was possible is a reality here.”
Backus said the new building is impressive, but the most important thing is that the programs and classes remained the focus.
“This building is fabulous and wonderful, but it’s what’s going to happen inside this building that is what it’s all meant to be for,” Backus said. “Most of these careers are the kind of careers that last forever. We’ll have students come in and meet with the board, and students will say, ‘I never thought I’d have a job waiting for me after school making a nice living.’”
Kaelber agreed and said the DACC programs are designed in part to meet needs in the workforce and give students career opportunities.
“It’s the future. It’s the job market,” Kaelber said. “We have like 450 business and industry professionals on our advisory council so we meet their needs. They tell us where the needs are in the workforce. This building is set up for that. Most of our students can leave here with a very lucrative job and no loans to pay off.”
DACC Board President and Olentangy Local Schools Representative Julie Wagner-Feasel said in an email Friday that she is glad the consolidation is complete.
“I feel relieved and elated that the consolidation has finally taken place!” she said. “It’s a beautiful facility full of wonderful opportunities for our students. I hope with the new facility more students will look at attending and taking advantage of our unique programs. I mean where else can a high school student go to because a dental technician or a cyber security expert or a certified welder?”
The 141,000-square-foot DACC North Campus was sold to Delaware County in July 2017 for $1.7 million.
Classes began Tuesday at the career center.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.