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News / Northwest

Kalama to open new Cascadia Tech site to train for forestry jobs

Career skills center is run by local school districts

By Minka Atkinson, The Daily News
Published: April 27, 2024, 5:59am

LONGVIEW — The Kalama School District will use $1.15 million received from the state Legislature to design a new facility where students can have outdoor lessons on subjects like forestry and ecology.

The funds come from this year’s supplemental capital budget through a collaboration with Cascadia Technical Academy, and the facility will double as a satellite location for Cascadia Tech’s natural resources program.

Cascadia Tech is a career and technical education skills center located in Vancouver and run by 10 local school districts. It partners with those districts to offer career programs, like two in the Woodland School District that prepare students to be electricians and paraeducators.

Currently, Cascadia Tech serves only schools as far north as Woodland, but the satellite program at Kalama would be open to juniors and seniors from Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, La Center, Longview, Ridgefield and Woodland.

Most of Cowlitz County is considered to be a skills center desert because it is not served by any of the statewide network of centers Cascadia Tech is part of, Cascadia Tech Director Joan Huston said. The new satellite program, which is set to begin operating in the 2024-25 school year, aims to address that issue.

The facility in Kalama will be called a natural resources learning site and will not be finished before the new program starts. No timeline has been established yet, but construction is expected to take years. The district plans to begin requesting proposals from contractors later this year, according to a press release.

The funding provided by the state is only for the initial planning stage. Once all the details are ironed out, Kalama and Cascadia Tech will apply for further funding, Kalama Communications and Grants Manager Nick Shanmac said.

The natural learning facility will be built on district-owned forested property east of Chinook Stadium that currently contains a ropes course and is used for nature walks for elementary students. A rendering of the facility provided by SAJ Architecture shows flexible classroom and lab spaces, along with room for heavy equipment simulations.

Two sessions of Cascadia Tech’s natural resources program, serving a total of 50 students, would use the space in the morning, while Kalama students of all grade levels would use it in the afternoon, Huston said. It could also be used as a community event space.

Offerings from both schools are planned to center around forestry and related careers, which are identified as an area of high need in local industry.