By Randy Pierce
BELLEVILLE – Set to open August 1 and with construction having begun last week, the Belleville Township High School District 201 Center for Academic and Vocational Excellence is designed to provide beneficial training for the students it will be serving.
Members of the District 201 Board of Education Facilities Committee were taken on a tour of the facility on Tuesday, March 9, that was led by District Superintendent Brian Mentzer who explained the many various components that will be incorporated into the building with the goal of providing meaningful impact in the lives of students from both Belleville East and West high schools.
A little over a week earlier, the board had approved a recommendation for the awarding of a contract to Millenium Construction Company of Lebanon for the completing the rehabilitation of what has been known as the Kings Point building at the intersection of Illinois Routes 15 and 13 in west Belleville.
At a prior District 201 Board of Education meeting, Mentzer explained, in reference to the CAVE project, to a larger than usual audience of people, who were mostly there to express their feelings about the coronavirus masking issue, “It is very important for our community to understand that the district is making a significant investment.”
“We will have the most state-of-the-art, advanced training center, technology center, athletic facility, extracurricular facility, computer lab and (sports or music) practice space for any and all students who want to be involved.”
“We’re talking about an opportunity for a facility of this nature to change kids’ lives for the better, providing them with meaningful and sustainable income.”
The multitude of skills to be taught at The CAVE, Mentzer noted, includes such trade industry areas of specialization as welding, metalwork, construction, automotive repair, science, culinary arts, technology, health care and more.
“It’s 100,000 square feet of really good space,” Mentzer continued, “that’s going to change a lot of kids’ lives whether it’s somebody who wants to be in the trades or it’s a student who may be an outstanding athlete or computer technician or whatever and they can’t afford necessarily to get advanced training on their own.”
Offering career, vocational and technical opportunities for learning in a hands-on setting, the structure where The CAVE will be located was formerly used as an exercise and tennis center at 7645 Magna Drive in Belleville before being shut down last year after District 201 purchased it with the help of a grant secured through the assistance of Illinois State 113th District Representative Jay Hoffman.
Along with well over a dozen actual classrooms, The CAVE will have a cafeteria, commons area for students to gather and relax, office space, a lobby with a 10-foot-high welded sculpture created by students as a focal point, ample space for athletic training and workout activities, computer lab, conference room, workstations, early childhood education observation room and more on its two floors and lower level with room for future expansion as needed.
Areas are also being designated for career counseling, credentialing and certification plus testing as required depending on the field of endeavor.
Mentzer said during the aforementioned tour that a few weeks after the formal opening of The CAVE, an open house will be held for the public to view it.