The Missouri State School Board approved the charter for the Construction Career Center on Jan. 11, says Leonard P. Toenjes, president of the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis. The AGC chapter formed the charter school plan more than a year ago. A task force of AGC members, staff and educators wrote the charter that was approved by the chapter’s board of directors. The St. Louis Public School System will act as the overseer of the charter school’s board of education.

NEW HOME Former school will be the site of the Construction Career Center.

The school will add 125 students each year until an enrollment of 500 students is reached. Students can expect construction applications in almost every class they attend, says Toenjes. The graduates will have the skills to enter the industry and an apprentice program or go on to college, if they choose.

Rick Grebel, president of KCI Construction Co., St. Louis, headed the AGC task force and chairs the school board, known as the Construction Career Center Board of Education. Grebel believes the school will come on line just when the need is at its highest. The St. Louis construction work force is aging, notes Grebel. "And, with a lot of the newer retirement plans, a lot of these people will be getting out earlier."

AGC is working with other partners, including local chapters of the National Association of Home Builders, American Institute of Architects and craftworker unions that will help implement the plan. This will include hiring a principal and qualified teachers and recruiting students. "Their involvement will be critical in the long run," says Toenjes.

AGC has appointed a seven-member board of education that includes four AGC contractors, a building trades representative, an educator and a parent. The school will be publicly funded, but reimbursements will not be available until students start class. AGC will kick off a fund-raising campaign to pay for initial salaries and for renovating a vacant former school. Local contractors and suppliers have pledged to help renovate the three-story building.

Toenjes says just one roadblock remains: the calendar. "We’ll need to raise about $1.5 million dollars for up-front expenses." Toenjes admits it is a risk, but he believes that the effort will pay off down the road. "Young people will see a future in this industry," he says.

hen school opens in september, if all goes according to plan, the city of St. Louis will have a new charter school that specializes in construction education. And it will be the first publicly funded high school for construction nationwide.