The Pima Joint Technical Education District (JTED) is breaking ground on the northwest corner of I-10 and Park Avenue mid-May for a two-story, 50,000 square-foot Innovative Learning Campus. The new campus, located on the western section of the Bridges, is slated to open in July 2020.
The site is being developed through a joint venture between BFL Construction and the Bourn Companies, which offered Pima JTED a lease-to-own agreement over 7 years. The new building, designed by Tucson architect Joel Mesik, RA, Principal of WSM Architects, will cost approximately $9 million to build. It will use tilt-up construction, and features a sky bridge that in addition to offering outdoor space for student collaboration, will serve as a link to two buildings of equal size to be constructed to the north in the near future.
“We are very pleased that the architects, WSM, designed the machine-like appearance of the building to represent the high-tech nature of our training,” says Pima JTED Superintendent Kathy Prather.
The building will house a number of high-demand medical pathway programs including Healthcare Foundations, Medical Assistant and Licensed Nursing Assistant, as well as other technical pathway programs including Cyber Security, and 3-D Virtual Reality Game Design which gives students experience developing artificial intelligence and introduces them to augmented reality.
A commercial teaching kitchen will afford Culinary Arts students the opportunity to gain real world experience providing catering and operating a small café, which will spill out to a large patio area.
In addition, there will be an expansive makerspace area for Robotics, Automation and Mechatronics programs. These programs are being strategically added to provide a skilled workforce for industry, including the multiple new large warehouse fulfillment centers, such as Amazon, that are starting operations in Tucson. Additional programs that will help students enter high-paying and fast-growing career sectors, such as BioTechnology are also being discussed. All programs offered will provide opportunities for students to obtain dual Pima Community College credit and industry certifications.
Ms. Prather says her district is creating a unique and transformational model of delivering premier Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in Arizona through a partnership with Tucson Unified School District. TUSD will lease 9 large classrooms to offer core high school curriculum, so that students may attend the Innovative Learning Campus all day and earn their high school diploma, as well as earn industry certifications that lead to direct employment. Pima JTED and TUSD are also in discussions with the Sunnyside Unified School District, so that Sunnyside students will be able to enroll at the new campus as well while keeping that district’s enrollment numbers neutral. “In an era where many school districts are compelled to do what they can to compete for students, there is an unprecedented level of collaboration happening that has insightful school leaders working together to figure out how we as a larger community can best serve the interests of all students,” says Ms. Prather.
Approximately 400 to 500 students will attend the campus during the day, and another 450 to 550 students will attend in the afternoon and early evening. Those students will attend their high school of choice and then commute to the Innovative Learning Campus for their CTE program after their school day. Building such a campus, serving the Southwest side of metropolitan Tucson, has been the subject of discussion for 14 years, even preceding the formation of the Pima JTED in July 2007.
The Bridges has emerged as one of Tucson’s newest and most dynamic mixed-use developments. Dubbed “an urban village,” and a “technology precinct,” it weaves together biotechnology office and laboratory space, shopping and entertainment, residential housing, and a series of outdoor interactive public spaces.
“This building is the first of three buildings planned for the site, which will become the Pima JTED Innovative Learning Campus, serving the over 52,000 high school age youth who live within a 25-minute drive of the location,” says Ms. Prather. “This project will benefit youth across the metropolitan area and serve our community’s workforce development needs.”
The Pima JTED recently received a pledge of $250,000 from the Rotary Club of Tucson Centennial Grant to help support the construction cost of the building. “The public’s overwhelmingly positive response to this project and support for CTE shows we’re moving in the right direction,” says Ms. Prather. “We greatly value our partnerships with business, industry, education, and community leaders.”