‘Authentic learning’ for JCCHS students on new high school plans

From left, Megan McDowell, Elias Gomez Del Rio, Reese Daar, and PJ Gudz are CTAE students at Jackson County Comprehensive High School who participated in a construction meeting last week with architects and engineers working on the new high school for the west side of Jackson County.

From left, Megan McDowell, Elias Gomez Del Rio, Reese Daar, and PJ Gudz are CTAE students at Jackson County Comprehensive High School who participated in a construction meeting last week with architects and engineers working on the new high school for the west side of Jackson County.

Four architectural drawing and design students from Jackson County Comprehensive High School got to sit in on a planning and construction meeting for the proposed high school on the county’s west side last week, putting “real world, authentic learning” in the forefront.

Megan McDowell, Elias Gomez Del Rio, Reese Daar, and PJ Gudz gathered around the table Sept. 20 with school officials and representatives of Southern A&E, the school’s architectural and engineering firm, and Bowen & Watson, Inc., construction managers for the facility.

They are enrolled in the career, technical, and agricultural education – CTAE – pathway for architectural drawing and design, one of more than two dozen pathways offered in mathematics, science, social studies, advanced academics, language arts, and fine arts.

Students of JCCHS’s Mollie Neufeld, they talked with the professionals and listened in on discussions as the construction team met with Dr. April Howard, JCSS superintendent; Ted Gilbert, assistant superintendent for operations; Josh Patton, facilities coordinator; and Sheila Briggs, operations department executive assistant.

“I was hoping some of the students might be future engineers, but they told me they’re all going for the big money in architecture,” Keith Watson joked, drawing laughter from the four youngest people in the room.

Conversation ranged from layout and design to lift stations, energy efficiency, and safety considerations. The students watched – and offered commentary on – a video prepared by Southern A&E, noting design features that make the school feel “more like a college building” than the current JCCHS structure.

PJ Gudz, Jackson County Comprehensive High School CTAE student, left, listens intently along with Nicki Westmorland and Keith Watson of Bowen & Watson, Inc., construction managers for the new west side high school, during a meeting last week.

PJ Gudz, JCCHS CTAE student, left, listens intently along with Nicki Westmorland and Keith Watson of Bowen & Watson, Inc., construction managers for the new west side high school, during a meeting last week.

They were particularly interested in the potential use of interior drywall instead of traditional painted cement block, the building’s broader hallways, and the use of glass.

The students went back to class excited, “and that excitement was contagious,” CTAE director Todd Shultz told the school’s leadership team Sept. 24.

“It was a real validation for me that all of what we do as adults is interesting to our students – they may want to pursue the work we share,” Gilbert added. “Their engagement in the meeting made a difference.”

Howard said she agreed with Gilbert’s assessment.

“We have lots of kids who want to be a part of the work we are doing,” she said. “We share a mutual respect, and their insight gives us insight.

“We need to have our kids at the table.”

Their next opportunity will come when the bids for work on the Skelton Road site of the new facility are opened at 2 p.m. Oct. 9, the day students return from fall break. A non-mandatory pre-bid meeting was held on the site Sept. 25.

Another round of bids are due at 2 p.m. Oct. 18 for construction materials engineering and testing and special inspections – site work – for the property.

Watching a video presentation on plans for the new high school on Jackson County’s west side are, from the far left end, David Keener, Drew Watson, James Ingram, Neal Williams, Keith Watson and Nicki Westmoreland of Bowen & Watson, Inc.; JCCHS CTAE students PJ Gudz, Reese Daar, Elias Gomez Del Rio, and Megan McDowell; Assistant Superintendent for Operations Ted Gilbert; JCSS Facilities Coordinator Josh Patton, Steve McCune of Southern A&E; JCSS Superintendent Dr. April Howard, and Operations Department Executive Assistant, Sheila Briggs.

Watching a video presentation on plans for the new high school on Jackson County’s west side are, from the far left end, David Keener, Drew Watson, James Ingram, Neal Williams, Keith Watson and Nicki Westmoreland of Bowen & Watson, Inc.; JCCHS CTAE students PJ Gudz, Reese Daar, Elias Gomez Del Rio, and Megan McDowell; Assistant Superintendent for Operations Ted Gilbert; JCSS Facilities Coordinator Josh Patton, Steve McCune of Southern A&E; JCSS Superintendent Dr. April Howard, and Operations Department Executive Assistant, Sheila Briggs.In addition to Keith Watson, other Bowen & Watson representatives at the meeting included David Keener, Drew Watson, James Ingram, Neal Williams, and Nicki Westmoreland; Steve McCune represented Southern A&E.

JCSS serves nearly 8,000 students in 10 elementary, middle and high schools across the county. Learn more online at JacksonSchoolsGA.org.