Boulder Valley School District

Bond-funded renovations at Boulder TEC emulate professional work environments

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Earlier this school year when Welding, Auto Collision Repair and Auto Service Technology students at Boulder Technical Education Center (TEC) returned to their classrooms on the Arapahoe Campus, they were greeted by newly renovated classrooms/labs that had been updated to emulate professional shops. 

According to Boulder TEC principal Arlie Huffman, the students’ excitement was palpable. 

“The students were really energized on the first day back,” said Huffman. “I know they were excited to see their friends, but they were also really excited about the changes in the learning spaces. They were eager to get back to hands-on learning.” 

At Boulder TEC, students can earn college credit and professional certifications with hands-on learning experiences in a variety of career paths. Renovations to the TEC classrooms, along with other work on the Arapahoe Campus, are part of a $15M project provided by the 2014 Building for Student Success Bond program. 

According to Huffman, one of the goals with the project was to bring the three classrooms up to and sometimes even beyond the standard of current industry practice and equipment. 

“We want kids to get experience here that will make them very employable in professional practice. We also want to be on the leading edge of what’s happening in the industry,” Huffman explained. 

To support this goal in the Auto Service Technology shop, teacher Lary Long explained that two large overhead doors were installed in the shop area so that vehicles follow a path through the work bay while students work on them—a team approach that is increasingly used in professional shops. In addition to directing the workflow, Huffman said the more open floor plan fosters collaboration among students, an objective described in BVSD’s Innovation guiding principles, which were developed at the start of the Bond program to guide updates to learning environments. A newly constructed storage area is accessible from both the collision repair shop and the auto service shop—further nurturing the connection between the classes. 

Other renovations are intended to prepare students to meet changing trends and technology in their fields. A new ceiling to floor curtain in the collision repair shop creates a separate, clean space for post-repair detailing work—skills that are seeing growing demand. A new digital tire diagnostic machine students will use to evaluate how a tire is wearing and where it should be mounted on a car is the latest technology that many commercial shops don’t have yet, according to Long. Huffman says he hopes the students will take the leading edge experience they are getting at TEC into their jobs and push for advances in their future workplaces and the industry, citing the new collaborative layout of the shop. 

According to Huffman, teachers have noted that student attitudes and behavior have shifted to match the professional atmosphere of the renovated workspaces. “When we moved back in after construction, students were able to help set up the rooms, which really gave them a sense of ownership of the new spaces,” he went on to explain.

Long notes the project team did a good job of listening to the teachers and incorporating their input into the design plans. One such feature was a private changing room [for students to change into work clothes] he and Collision Repair teacher Bill Uttich suggested. The teachers wanted to make sure female students felt safe and supported in the auto repair classes. 

Down the hall in the welding classroom and lab, students have more space in renovated rooms that were intentionally designed with adequate space and a functional layout. According to instructor Bryan Whitehead, walls were reconfigured to create larger classroom and shop spaces. The larger space, which was created to allow more students to take the class, has been an advantage during the pandemic because students have the room to spread out, Whitehead said. Fourteen individual welding booths—an increase of 3 over the old lab—have dedicated ventilation as well as 220 voltage power lines for arc welders. Semi-transparent curtains around the booths allow for supervision while also protecting bystanders. Other improvements in this area include additional storage and a new large screen monitor that can be used to show safety or instructional videos.

Other renovations in the project boost the safety and functionality of the learning environments. New heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment (HVAC) provides dedicated ventilation at each workstation in both the auto repair shops and welding shop. The ventilation system protects air quality for the individual students in the work spaces and for the entire room. The new system also makes the spaces more comfortable—something that used to be a challenge with large overhead exterior doors. New LED lighting provides brighter light for improved visibility. The color of the LED light is closer to daylight which is especially beneficial for matching vehicle paint colors for body work. These features also contribute to improving energy efficiency in the rooms. Two new professional-size paint booths in the collision repair shop create versatility and efficiency so that students don’t have to move vehicles and smaller parts in and out of a single booth as they did previously. 

To learn more about projects in the 2014 Bond program, visit