NC Rep Charles Graham, County Commissioners and School Board members turn dirt

PEMBROKE — Today, ground was broken for the historic Robeson County Career and Technology Education Center and Planetarium that will provide innovative technologies and programs for students in the Public Schools of Robeson County.

“It’s going to be a great technology school for young men and women,” said John Simmons, chairman of the PSRC Board of Education. “Technology has the power to transform the classroom into a particular field for the students to experience real life application and today’s real world.”

“Since being elected to the PSRC Board of Education in 2012, the Career and Technology High School and Planetarium has been a dream and a goal for PSRC,” said Randy Lawson, vice chair of the PSRC Board of Education.

“Myself along with current and former board members are proud and thankful that it is now a reality that will greatly benefit the students of PSRC, while enriching our county and state,” Lawson added.

Several Robeson County officials were in attendance of the ceremony including local leaders, Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education members and others.

“Thank you to the PSRC for your support in making Robeson County a place to work, live, and build a solid educational platform,” said Robeson County Manager Kellie Blue. “The new career and technology high school will help students to explore strong career paths with a hands-on approach that is vital for the Robeson County workforce.”

“We are excited to break ground on a state-of-the-art facility that will allow us to expand our Career and Technical Education programs to reach more students. This new facility brings new opportunities to offer multiple certifications and credentials students can earn to launch them into a successful career,” said PSRC Superintendent Dr. Freddie Williamson.

Robeson County Economic Development Director Channing Jones said the center also will have a positive and direct economic impact on Robeson County residents.

“Our nation's primary driver for economic development is developing a skilled workforce. Establishing a technology high school in Robeson County is critically important to prepare our next generation of highly trained individuals,” Jones said.

“Creating high-tech and advanced technical curriculums will help Robeson County and its many employers meet economic challenges and provide our community with the skills that equate to higher wages and, thus, a higher quality of life,” Jones added.

The center will house programs like Culinary Arts, Automotive Technology, Drones and more.

The center will also be the home of the new Robeson Planetarium and Science Center. The planetarium’s facility was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. It is now located at PSRC Central Office.

“The new career and technology high school will not only open doors to innovations but also set pathways to new career opportunities for our students in Robeson County,” said John Cummings, a Robeson County Commissioner who represents District 3.

The building will consist of a Learning Commons area and multiple collaboration areas for students to work together across programs. An emphasis will also be placed on technologies in the classroom, as programs are offered and crafted for various professions.

The project will be split into two phases. The first phase, which is fully funded, includes a 90,000-square-foot building and the second phase includes additional program space. When the project is complete, the Center is projected to span roughly 129,000-square-feet.

The plan is to design the building in its entirety, pursue more funding and then build the center all at once, according to Robbie Ferris, owner and CEO of SfL+a Architects.

The project is currently funded at $59.99 million for Phase 1. Once funding for Phase 2 is secured, the total project is projected to cost $96.91 million.

The district will continue to explore funding opportunities for the project.

“Thank you to the Public Schools of Robeson County and the many community partners engaging in the new design of the latest career and technology high school,” said Wixie Stephen, chair of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners. “The new school will bring vocational opportunities and career paths to students in Robeson County.”

“This project is a critical part of our efforts to champion student success. We are certain that this facility will serve as a beacon of hope as we continue on the pathway to a better and brighter future for Robeson County students and residents,” Williamson said.