Stanislaus County educators and employers are joining forces to create what they believe is the first business-led career training center in Northern California.
Plans for the center, led by Opportunity Stanislaus, took a major step forward Monday with a unanimous vote by the Stanislaus County Board of Education to buy a block of downtown Modesto owned by 1325 H Street LLC of Hanford.
The Stanislaus County Office of Education will own the building, now leased by The Modesto Bee and a law firm, and use the majority of the site for its own programs. SCOE has an annual budget of more than $235 million and about 1,050 employees. It provides financial oversight and training for districts; oversees preschool contracts; and serves expelled students, dropouts and students with severe disabilities.
It will move 22 classrooms of the Come Back Kids school helping high school dropouts get diplomas into the building in December. It also plans to shift training programs for high school students to the property.
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SCOE expects The Bee to move its operations by June, but another tenant’s lease will not be up until June 2019, said Deputy Superintendent Don Gatti. That will give SCOE plenty of planning time before a major renovation, he said. The building was last updated in 1988.
The $6.9 million SCOE purchase includes the 153,000-square-foot, blue tiled Bee building, as well a large parking lot on 14th Street. It works out to about $43 per square foot for the two-story structure, which McClatchy sold in 2011.
The Stanislaus County Office of Education will pay $6.9 million, or $43 per square foot, for the building, owned by 1325 H Street LLC since 2011.
One block away from the SCOE main offices at 1100 H St., the 190-space parking lot will be the first sigh of relief for the overstuffed headquarters, Gatti said. He said it will be a cash purchase made with redevelopment funding reserved for property purchases and upgrades.
Bee Publisher Ken Riddick said he has mixed feelings about leaving what has been the paper’s home since the 1950s. “We’re looking forward to finding a new space,” Riddick said Monday. The Bee is committed to finding more modern quarters and will remain in Modesto, he said.
Industrial areas of the building are ideal for the construction trades program now operating at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock, said Scott Kuykendall, head of the SCOE educational options division.
Office space in the front half of the building will be a mix of classrooms, teacher training areas and administration, he said. SCOE programs serve school districts and those without high school diplomas, and the planned Opportunity Stanislaus center would serve those who already have diplomas.
One thing that is very consistently true of all these centers is they are led by business. They’re at the speed of business.
Dave White, Opportunity Stanislaus CEO
Opportunity Stanislaus hopes to announce its career center plans, with more specifics, in early 2017 and have it operational by fall.
“These types of training centers have popped up all around the country,” Dave White said Monday. “One thing that is very consistently true of all these centers is they are led by business. They’re at the speed of business. They’re for business, in partnership with the educational community.”
White is CEO of the nonprofit, which, if plans fall into place, would run the center in roughly one-fifth of the building. The 15- to 18-week sessions would take about 50 students at a time through basic job skills and training in areas where local employer surveys show a need, White said.
“Skills are changing at such a crazy rate of change. What may be relevant today may not be relevant two years from now, so we have to be working at the pace of business in order to train students/workers in the appropriate skills,” he said.
And if trainees lack math or other academic skills, White said, “SCOE is just down the hall.”