The Russellville Area Technology Center (RATC) is only about three years shy of being 50 years old - but discussion is under way about possibility updating the building for the good of the community.
The building currently houses nine programs with over 650 total students from Russellville High School, Logan County High School and Todd County Central High School.
“The programs we have now are absolutely packed,” said RATC principal Eric Keeling.
Those programs include office technology, health science, computer aided drafting, electricity, welding, information technology, automotive, machine tool and accounting.
But with space at a premium - and the evolving educational landscape - changes are needed for the current structure.
“Our building is a 1966 model and it’s serve the community well in all those years,” Keeling said. “But with today’s career and college readiness initiatives, we need more space to be able to accomplish those goals.”
The Russellville Independent School District is the sole owner of the building, even though two other school districts also utilize it.
And that school board has been receptive to looking into the possibility of upgrading the facility.
“We’ve been working some with Tom Harned and LEAD about making that happen,” Russellville schools superintendent Leon Smith said. “But we are in the very beginning stages of that dialog. Part of my charge now is to have an architect look at the project and give us some perspective about what it might cost.”
Keeling is in his third year as principal at the tech school.
In his first year, he had blueprints drawn up for a brand new facility with the hopes of one day seeing it built.
“That didn’t go very far,” he said.
Instead, he said that the idea of refurbishing the old building and adding on to it began to get traction.
“We have a lot of old, unused buildings in this community already,” Keeling said. “The old hospital is a good example of that. We don’t need another one. So we are looking at what it might take to improve the current tech center.”
Getting the money to pay for a renovation, rather than a brand new building project might also be easier.
“With funding these days, it’s not feasible to look at a brand new structure,” Smith said. “But we can look at what it might take to modify the current building, not only for our students, but our local businesses and industries.”
Some of the improvements would include expanding and adding classroom space.
“In 1966, the emphasis was mostly on labs, but we need more classroom space for lectures,” Keeling said. “We could not only take care of our existing programs, but we could also look into offering new programs as well.”
If Keeling gets his wish, the new and improved building will be used for much more than just educating high school students.
“I’d like to see it become an educational complex,” Keeling said.
His vision is to have four classrooms that could be used by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) as well as two labs for local businesses and industries to use for training.
“We’re not out here in the evenings when KCTCS could use it for college and adult general education classes, but we would also have a way to lock down that portion of the building during the day to keep it separate from our teenage students,” Keeling said.
The project is still just in the early planning stages, but Keeling is still excited about the possibilities for the RATC in the future.
“It’s pretty awesome to think about,” Keelin said. “The wonderful part is that the community is behind us.”