FLINT TWP. — The Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week to showcase its $12 million expansion and renovation of the Genesee Career Institute (GCI), G-5081 Torrey Road. Owned and operated by the GISD, the GCI provides career-focused training to 11th and 12th-grade students from all 21 school districts in Genesee County as well as charter schools, private and home schools. Current enrollment is about 1,400, said Principal Jim Ply.
Construction began in Spring 2015 for the renovation project which has transformed the school, formerly known as the Skill into a state-of-the art facility. Renovations added 7,000 square feet of instructional space, including an Innovation Zone, collaborative learning spaces, and a linked learning labs to help prepare students for future careers.
Most of the project involved gutting and renovating existing classrooms but the large entrance space now called the Innovation Zone is totally new construction built on a former courtyard.
“We wanted a space that could hold large groups or small groups in a variety of learning environments,” said GISD Superintendent Lisa Hagel, in describing the 700-square foot room that is equipped with a 16-foot television screen that can be broken down into smaller components. The Zone also includes mobile floor-to-ceiling room dividers that can be slid into position to section off the room for such uses as job fairs, robotic competitions and other multi-functional learning environments, Hagel said.
Another renovation goal was “not just to provide a school, we wanted to simulate a work like environment, Hagel said of the project design. Technology-rich spaces now offer flexibility in classroom set-up for diverse instructional strategies.
“We have created a state-of-the art technical education center that provides students from across Genesee County with … facilities that emulate business, industry and higher education environments they will soon be attending,” said Cindy A. Gansen, GISD board of education president.
Following a ribbon cutting and a video presentation of before, during and after construction photos, visitors were given a tour of the facility and its new features that were developed according to current industry standards. “These are not traditional programs; these are innovative programs that really prepare students for career pathways that they are interested in,” Hagel said of the diverse fields of study including STEM, marketing, public safety, transportation, manufacturing, information technology, tourism, health science, human services and more.
To facilitate collaborative projects, the building is now equipped throughout with technology and rooms where students can work in small or large groups on shared tasks. Linked learning labs are set up similar to an Internet Café with equipment like that in a real-world office or college campus.
Large seating in computer programming gives students a comfortable place to sit down and design a video game then play it to see how it works.
A “second to none” media broadcasting station is newly equipped with cameras, lights, props and editing equipment needed to produce professional results.
New car lifts added to auto repair program garage provide students with a setting like those found at a dealership. There also are welding booths exactly like those that students will see in a work place.
A CNC laser plasma cutter, that used to be located in another part of the building, is now set up in the actual classroom for ease of hands-on instruction.
A stock market ticker tape scrolling across the wall in the marketing room familiarizes students with a Wall Street-type environment.
Something called a Z-space has equipment and projection screens connected to a network that allows students wearing special 3D glasses to conduct research such as slicing through bones to see what is inside of them.
“You can actually (virtually) dissect a human body without dissecting a human body,” Ply said. The tool has all sorts of engineering uses, for example, an automotive class can examine a running car engine to see how the parts work, he said.
“It is a neat place for the kids to come and take things a part without actually taking things apart.” Ply said.
Another section called the Creation Corner is set up for students to take in community design projects such as T-shirts. logo pens, cups., ink pens, posters and other advertising materials. Students work with the public to gain real-world marketing and design experience.