New career training opportunities will be offered to high school students in the Geneseo area.

The school district broke ground on a new career and technical education center Monday. It will be an addition to the current high school and will offer different career paths to students.

An architectural rendering of the new center addition to Geneseo High School.

The center’s cost is $4.2 million, and the district received over $1.5 million in funding thanks to generous financial commitments from local foundations, businesses, and the Geneseo Board of Education, via sales tax revenue. The remaining costs will be covered through bonds, with no increase to the district’s tax rate.

The sales-tax revenue became available after the citizens of Henry County approved the Illinois County School Facility Sales Tax. Since 2007, Illinois voters have had the option to approve a 1% County Schools Facility Tax (commonly known as a sales tax), that shifts facility funding away from property taxes, according to the school district.

The Board of Education voted to allocate the surplus 1% sales-tax revenue towards the costs of building the new Career and Technical Education Center.

We spoke with Geneseo High School’s former principal Travis Mackey, who is passionate about creating diverse opportunities for students.

“I come from a unique background because when I was in high school I took all the vocational classes…I had no intention of going on to college.”

“Vocational is definitely a love for me and I love to see this in our community but also the surrounding area… and to have that be an area of focus I think is great for our students,” he said.

We also heard from the superintendent of the Geneseo school district, Adam Brumbaugh, who said that 25 percent of their students do not go to college right after graduating high school.

“We know that there’s a group of students that need different skills. They’re not gonna go on to a four-year college; they’re ready to work right away,” he said.

Over the years, Geneseo has seen an increase in students taking their vocational classes and wanted to provide more space for students as they prepare for their desired careers.

“Really, we want to make sure that we’re providing as many new opportunities, right?” Brumbaugh said. “Because we could be preparing kids for jobs that don’t even exist. Which is difficult right now to try to plan ahead, but we need kids who are problem solvers and they can be adaptable so that when the workforce does change they can change with it.”

School officials see this kind of learning soon becoming a trend for more students in the future. So their goal is to not only create a career and technical center for just their students but for the entire community.

“Potentially not just for our kids but we’d love to be a hub for area schools as well and adult education,” the superintendent said.

As they plan for the new building to be built in phases, starting off their goal is to have the vocational center double the size of the high school, providing lots of room for their classrooms and courses.

“It’s a bold statement to have a new building here in a time where maybe economically it doesn’t make sense,” Brumbaugh said. “But we’re building for the future and really we want to make sure that we have a workforce that is ready to fill the needs of our community. We have an aging community who are begging for that force, that next generation of workers to pick up the baton and kind of pass it off to them, so we’re hoping to have that workforce ready for them.”

The center will provide classes in auto mechanics, metal work and carpentry. The district hopes to start teaching classes in the new building by next August.