CASCO – Work started last week on the building that will allow high school students from three area districts to take college-level courses and earn a diploma in diesel mechanics, all without paying college tuition.
Ahnapee Diesel will be Wisconsin’s first high school program dedicated specifically to diesel mechanics instead of teaching some diesel within an automotive program, according to Dan Klecker of the Wisconsin Automobile & Truck Dealers Association in a press release from the Luxemburg-Casco School District.
The program will be held in partnership with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in the school district’s former middle school building in Casco, where demolition and construction is now underway to convert the school’s former art and wood shops and cafeteria into a diesel and fabrication lab with 1,000 square feet of of classroom space and 4,200 square feet of fabrication area. Classes are slated to begin at the start of the 2021-22 school year.
Students in the Ahnapee Diesel program will follow the technical college’s diesel maintenance technician curriculum, overseen by the college and taught by college instructor Duane Lundwall. After completing the program, they earn credit toward their high school graduations as well as a one-year technical diploma from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and 26 college credits. Juniors and seniors from Luxemburg-Casco, Kewaunee and Denmark high schools can apply to the program; thus far, 15 from Luxemburg-Casco, six from Kewaunee and two from Denmark have signed up.
Those who complete the diesel program can either enter the workforce with the technical diploma after graduation or continue studies toward a more specialized two-year associate degree, Luxemburg-Casco Superintendent Glenn Schlender said.
He noted that in the technical college’s program, the first year of studies, which is what the Ahnapee program will cover, is a more general education in diesel mechanics while the second year leads to degrees in diesel heavy equipment technology, for off-road diesel use such as bulldozers or farm and construction equipment, or diesel medium and heavy truck technology, for on-road equipment like semi trucks. The off-road studies take place on the college’s Sturgeon Bay campus while the on-road studies are at the Green Bay campus.
“The first year is general diesel studies,” Schlender said. “The second year, you have to specialize in on- or off-road … The benefit with Ahnapee Diesel is, you get the first year for free.”
Schlender added that students who go through Ahnapee Diesel also might be able to find additional diesel work and education through the school’s Youth Apprenticeship Program, which works with businesses throughout Northeast Wisconsin.
Offering local high schoolers the chance to get a head start on learning to do something they want to do helped generate the partnership with the college, Schlender said.
“They know we’re trying to provide more opportunities for kids outside the traditional four-year college platform,” he said. “It’s just another avenue to provide kids with the chance to pursue their passion.”
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The program came about because Mike Snowberry, Luxemburg-Casco director of learning services, realized the district could set up an effort similar to the Ahnapee Automotive program it launched this school year, and because the area has a needed for qualified diesel mechanics, Schlender said.
“It kinda started with the auto program,” Schlender said. “Given the success of that program and interest from our industry partners, Mike said maybe we should try to do the same thing with diesel, because we know that’s an issue around here.”
Schlender said that besides the unique educational opportunity, Ahnapee Diesel also fulfills a component of the two referendums passed in April 2018 that authorized spending $27.8 million for major renovations at the district’s schools, including moving the middle school from Casco to the main campus in Luxemburg and then finding a way to use the old building.
Extensive work led by general contractor Zeise Construction is required at the old middle school, but it’s expected to be completed by Aug. 1.
To accommodate a full-size semi truck cab, the building must be modified to lower its concrete floor slab by two feet. The garage entry door also must be made taller and wider, with a new 18-foot overhead door installed. An exterior ramp down to the lowered floor also needs to be constructed.
The project includes demolition of interior partition walls, removal of the current concrete floor and the addition of structural steel at the roof structure to support a new make-up air unit. Enhanced exhaust systems and ductwork must be added to adequately distribute the air inside and mitigate contaminants introduced through welding, grinding and fabrication, and electrical outlets need to be upgraded.
Nearly 20 local and transportation-based companies have donated more than $275,000 to the diesel program.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.