RATHDRUM - Devon Clark is about to enter a new era of high school education in Kootenai County.
Clark is among 500 students from the Lakeland, Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene school districts enrolled in the Kootenai Technical Campus (KTEC), a technical-professional school in Rathdrum that celebrated its grand opening attended by 500 on Monday.
The school has given the Lakeland High junior a positive outlook on the start of the school year, not to mention his career possibility of engineering.
"KTEC is an opportunity that a lot of kids don't have," Clark said. "This will make me feel more like I'm accomplishing something and help me get certified in an industry that I'm interested in. I want the hands-on experience with machines."
Clark's mother, Lanette, said KTEC will give Devon a jumpstart on a degree or career and give him skills before he graduates.
"He can come out of high school and into a job if he chooses," she said.
Construction on the 54,000-square-foot, $7.9 million school at 6838 W. Lancaster Road is finishing up in time for next Tuesday's first day of school. Training dummies for the health program are already on beds, computers are plugged in and tools and machinery dot the shop areas.
Voters in the three school districts approved financing for KTEC two years ago.
Eight half-day programs will be offered to start, including automotive technology, diesel technology, industrial welding/metal fabrication, engineering design and automation, health professions/certified nursing assistant, computer repair and networking, construction trades and resort management.
Programs will change over the years based upon demand from the local industry.
Post Falls Superintendent Jerry Keane, chairman of the KTEC governing board, called the school's opening "the greatest day of my career," adding that he remembers discussing the concept in 1985.
The Meyer family, who donated 10 acres for the 20-acre site, drew an extended ovation during the ceremony.
Coeur d'Alene High senior Jake Best has been wavering between careers and he believes the automotive program he has enrolled in will make the choice clear.
"He tinkers with cars now, so he's hoping that this will be his calling," his mother, Kathi Best said. "This school is a huge incentive for him."
About half of KTEC's students will be from Coeur d'Alene with Post Falls and Lakeland students making up the other half. The numbers are based on the size of the districts and funding for KTEC.
More than 1,000 students applied to the school built for 280. To accommodate the huge enrollment, a third session was added that will allow the school to have 500.
"What a boost for youngsters if they can get in here and are serious about it," said Coeur d'Alene resident Mark Malone as he toured the classrooms.
JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Gerry Powers listens to the introductions of officials and guests before the ribbon cutting ceremony for the KTEC campus.
JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Wes Hill walks through one of the classroom labs filled with metal fabrication machinery.
In this 2012 file photo, former Coeur d'Alene School District Superintendent Hazel Bauman is flanked by Lakeland School District Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells, and Post Falls Superintendent Jerry Keane, as they applaud the Meyer family for their participation in the KTEC project.