This year the school is applying for a grant to add a new electrical program for students, said Principal Eric Lovvorn. He estimated setting up the program would cost between $75,000 and $100,000.
Superintendent Claire Dryden said grants give the school’s students opportunities the system would otherwise not be able to provide them.
“Tech programs are very expensive due to start-up costs, like equipment,” Dryden wrote in an email. “The Cleburne County Board of Education is committed to paying for an additional teaching unit for the tech school’s new program, but cannot afford the start-up costs.”
The school has 243 students from Ranburne and Cleburne County high schools studying automotive and collision repair, health science, welding, cabinet making and carpentry, business and cosmetology, Lovvorn said.
The school gives students the opportunity to try out the professions and find out if that’s what they might like to do. Some students find it’s not for them and don’t attend the full two years, Lovvorn said. Others may earn a certificate and go to work immediately after high school. For others, it’s a head start on a professional degree in fields such as nursing or automotive technology.
Lovvorn, who is serving his second year as principal at the school, said the school did have some perception problems when he took over, including the school building itself.
When Lovvorn asked teachers what they would like to see at the school, the teachers said they wanted to update the facility’s exterior.
“So students, when they come here, they feel proud of our school,” Lovvorn said.
At the time, the school’s classrooms and equipment were all updated, he said. But a person just driving by might have thought the building was closed, he said. Indeed, that’s what he thought when he drove by it the first time, Lovvorn added.
“There wasn’t a sign out here,” Lovvorn said. “The old fence was leaning, it looked bad. Also, there needed to be a paint job.”
Today, a new iron fence with solar-powered gates rings the parking lot. A sign identifies the school and flashes the time and temperature along with school announcements. The building’s exterior is freshly painted and landscaped.
Lovvorn surveyed students and local residents on Facebook, and the same complaints popped up about the school grounds. So he and the teachers started applying for grants.
The renovations all started with a donation of $2,000 from then-councilman Rex Nolen, Lovvorn said. Nolen gave the school $2,000 of his discretionary funds for the school to do some work in the Health Sciences classroom including removing a water heater suspended from the ceiling — a safety hazard — and replacing it with one installed on the floor, Lovvorn said.
Then, he and the teachers applied for a $5,000 grant from Coosa Valley Resource Conservation and Development and a $25,000 grant from Skills USA and Lowe’s, he said. The school received both grants, Lovvorn said.
The $25,000 grant paid for the school’s new sign and fencing and the $5,000 grant paid for paint and landscaping, Lovvorn said.
The students did much of the work themselves. They dug up the old fence and installed a new one, they helped prepare a site for the new sign and they did the landscaping and painting. “We had all our students involved one way or another,” Lovvorn said.
Two students, Austin Jordan and Dalton Boyd, both seniors this year, helped organize the project.
Jordan, 17, the chairman of the school’s Skills USA organization, which partnered with Lowe’s to provide the grant, said he wrote a letter for the grant. Then when it came time to do the work, he helped manage the project.
“We just organized the steps and put everything together,” Jordan said.
He also called around for concrete prices and ordered the concrete for the projects, Jordan said.
Jordan, who is studying automotive repair at the school, said the experience will help him when he’s finished with school and follows his dream of opening his own classic-car repair shop.
“It was different at first,” Jordan said of being in charge, “But I got used to it and it became easier.”
Some of the students thought the work was fun, too.
“I loved working on the landscaping stuff, said Dylan Tullis, 17, a Ranburne High School student. “That’s what I do during the summer.”
Christian Williams, a Cleburne County High School junior, said he loved working on the fence.
“It’s like doing steel buildings,” Williams said.
Lovvorn reserved one project for himself, however: He installed the solar panels for the gates over the summer.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.