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By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Learning Center to expand

 

December 19, 2019 | View PDF

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

GAF's CCO Andy Hilton tells the audience of the exciting plans for the project.

The Shafter City Council voted to move forward on a project that will see the existing Shafter Learning Center and Library expand to include more classrooms and several areas that will make the center a complex suited for a variety of uses.

Just a few months ago, GAF Materials, a roofing materials manufacturer based in Cawelo, decided to reach out to the community and find out a need that the residents of Shafter had and try to fill that need.

CCO Andy Hilton met with Councilmember Cathy Prout, as well as David Franz, the director of the Education Project and the Shafter Learning Center. They "threw some ideas around," Hilton said.

When GAF found out that Franz and company had outgrown their existing building, an idea was born to expand the center. An event was held earlier in the year in which the community was invited to give their input on what they thought the biggest needs were at the center.

"We received a lot of valuable feedback on what the community would like to see in the center, and we retained a nationally known design firm to work with us on creating a new center," Hilton said.

The existing center has two classrooms, several computer stations and a study area. It shares the building with Kern County's Shafter Branch Library.

The proposed center will contain, in addition to conventional classrooms, an outdoor flexible classroom that would be for a variety of subjects, such as vocational training and hands-on training that is challenging with the existing classrooms.

There will also be a kids play area next to the Learning Center Plaza, which will be an outdoor space with shading and tables to be used by parents waiting to pick their kids up from class, and by children waiting to be picked up.

Adjacent to that will be an area with seating and a stage that can be used for a variety of activities and performances, such as when the library presents their magic shows or reptile shows.

"We are looking to make this center into a main hub for the community," Franz said.

The Learning Center has daily traffic during its summer months of over 500 people a day, and the majority of the classes offered fill up quickly. "We have become so busy that a lot of times it is challenging for those parents who want to spend some quiet time reading with their kids," commented Franz. "We need that extra space to accommodate those who wish to take classes, as well as those who need a place to study or work on a project."

The plant manager for GAF, Nigel Abraham, gave a proposed timeline for the project. In the first quarter of 2020, architects will finalize construction drawings, permits will be obtained, bids taken, contractors selected and contracts negotiated. The construction should begin late in the first quarter. The second quarter of the year there will be ongoing construction, with perhaps chances for the community to come together for volunteer events to prepare for the opening.

The target opening is for the third quarter of 2020, with a full launch, ribbon-cutting and big public event.

In other city action, a $1.2-million budget amendment was unanimously approved to purchase approximately 34 acres of land located north of Tulare Avenue and east of Central Valley Highway. The property is currently owned Stan and Nancy Wilson. There is a vineyard and a well on the property currently. Part of the agreement is the moving of some irrigation equipment currently in service to other land owned by Wilson.

According to Acting City Manager Jim Zervis, it is not known at this time what the City will be using the land for, but Zervis said "with the proximity to the ongoing improvement projects involving the North Shafter area, this property will likely be helpful in providing a well for the improvement areas, or utilized in some other capacity.

 

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