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Kingsland Public Schools expands its trades program with the purchase of a plasma cutter

“We’re literally creating the next generation of our local workforce,” said Scott Klavetter, the elementary school principal and incoming superintendent.

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Kingsland High School senior Walker Erdman makes a project on the schools plasma cutter Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
Jordan Shearer | Post Bulletin
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SPRING VALLEY – Since last year, students at Kingsland High School have been learning how to use a new machine some of them may come across in the workforce after graduation.

With the help of the school district’s 2019 operating levy, the high school purchased a CNC plasma cutter. The device can be used in sign-making, auto repair and industrial construction, among other uses.

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The school district hailed the purchase as another step in the expansion of its trades program, allowing students to have a glimpse of another option after high school.

“We’re literally creating the next generation of our local workforce,” said Scott Klavetter, the elementary school principal and incoming superintendent.

Klavetter referenced a number of companies in the area that rely on skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen. Kingsland Public Schools covers the communities of Spring Valley and Wykoff, about 30 miles south of downtown Rochester.

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The school’s guidance counselor, Bruce Rohne, reiterated Klavetter's enthusiasm, saying that a significant number of the district’s graduates take career routes other than a traditional four-year college degree.

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Teacher Tyler Heimermann, senior Walker Erdman, and teacher Kristal Brogan work on getting the settings and software just right for a project with the school district's new plasma cutter on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
Jordan Shearer | Post Bulletin

Like many school districts, Kingsland has a variety of hands-on classes: welding, engines, electricity, construction, home improvement. With the new plasma cutter, the district added “metal arts” to that list of classes.

Industrial Tech Teacher Tyler Heimermann said there were smaller versions of the plasma cutter the district could have purchased. They decided on the larger version to benefit students who end up working with similar machines after graduation.

"We wanted to have stuff that the kids could possibly see in the industry," Heimermann said. "You could go from here, go off and do your schooling, and then get into a job and say 'oh yeah, I used to use one of these in high school.'"

Outside the shop where the students work is a shelf displaying a handful of their projects. Klavetter pointed out that the students made it all — not just the projects, but the shelf itself as well.

Senior Walker Erdman was working with the plasma cutter Wednesday. Along with his teacher, Kristal Brogan, he manipulated the design and settings on the computer to make sure everything would come out as planned.

Even if students don't end up using that specific machine during their careers, Erdman said it's a good example of how they will have to have a baseline of digital awareness, since the plasma cutter is controlled by a computer.

“A lot of people think the trades are all all about working with your hands,” he said, “(but) a lot of this is computers and there’s a lot of technology in the trades.”

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He plans to enter an electrical apprenticeship after graduation.

After getting the software worked out, they pulled some heavy plastic, red curtains around the plasma cutter to contain the sparks and shield their eyes from the brightness of the flame.

Klavetter clarified that the district doesn’t just focus on the trades, explaining it also offers courses to channel the academics, like College in Schools. Offering that range of options, he explained, is one of the ways te district aims to stay competitive when parents are deciding where to educate their children.

“The kids have options,” he said. “The priority is giving the students what they need.”

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Kingsland Public Schools purchased a CNC plasma cutter in an effort to expand its trades programming. It was put to work on a project Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
Jordan Shearer | Post Bulletin

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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