Franklin County Technical School prepares to launch aviation, veterinary programs

The new Veterinary Center being built at the Franklin County Technical School for teaching animal science with a veterinary concentration.

The new Veterinary Center being built at the Franklin County Technical School for teaching animal science with a veterinary concentration. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

A helicopter at Franklin County Technical School.

A helicopter at Franklin County Technical School. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Franklin County Technical School Superintendent Rick Martin outside the 12,000-square-foot aviation building being built at the Turners Falls Airport next to the Franklin County Technical School.

Franklin County Technical School Superintendent Rick Martin outside the 12,000-square-foot aviation building being built at the Turners Falls Airport next to the Franklin County Technical School. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Franklin County Technical School Superintendent Rick Martin inside the new Veterinary Center being built at the Franklin County Technical School for teaching animal science with a veterinary concentration.

Franklin County Technical School Superintendent Rick Martin inside the new Veterinary Center being built at the Franklin County Technical School for teaching animal science with a veterinary concentration. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By LIESEL NYGARD

For the Recorder

Published: 06-03-2024 12:35 PM

TURNERS FALLS — The Franklin County Technical School is on the cusp of completing two separate projects that will provide more opportunities for its students.

The school has been working on both a veterinary center, which should be done before the end of June, and also an aviation program that is slated to be ready before the start of the fall semester.

Veterinary center

The new veterinary center stands outside and apart from the main building on Industrial Boulevard and would allow students in the school’s Animal Science with a veterinarian concentration shop to work with small and large animals alongside a veterinarian contracted with the school, according to Superintendent Rick Martin.

The 4,800 square-foot building holds ultrasound machines, a wide array of veterinary equipment, a veterinary dog grooming area, a surgery room, a complete medical lab and a learning area where students can view surgeries from the surgery room on a widescreen TV.

The original initiative to fund the veterinary science program came from a $275,000 Skills Capital grant which the school obtained back in 2020. This helped Franklin Tech covert two former classrooms inside the school into lab spaces with modular walls, helping to create areas like grooming and exam rooms. Franklin Tech Business Manager Russ Kaubris said that the grant also paid for the exam tables and grooming and lab analysis equipment that will be used at the start of this new curriculum.

He added that the veterinary clinic building was paid for with capital funds raised from “our member towns over several years” and that almost $1.35 million has been invested into the building. No grant funds were used to construct the clinic.

“The building is 95% completed,” Kaubris said. “and any remaining funding needed will be supplemented by our tuition revolving fund.”

Martin said that the purpose of this new program is to train young students in the veterinary field before they seek a higher education or veterinary assistant positions.

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“We’re going to be working with the sheriff’s dog shelter first ...,” Martin said. “The skills being taught with the small and large animals are the skills that are going to be prerequisites for them to go on to become a veterinary assistant.”

Aviation program

The second project is an aviation program that’s been funded through a $4.2 million state grant, which was accepted by Martin back in 2022 as part of a Massachusetts Skills Capital Grant Program.

The 12,000 square-foot building is slated to be completed in the middle of July, Martin said. A grand opening is planned for the end of July or September.

Already, the instructional lab has $1.2 million worth of equipment purchased through the grant money, according to Martin. He added that the building has all of the required vocational programs associated with aviation mechanics in the same building. For instance, there will be a small welding room to detect hairline fractures in parts such as the material of an aircraft’s wings.

Students also will have access to a simulator room with jet engine and piston engine simulators which incorporate real engines, Martin explained. The second floor will be home to offices and storage rooms.

“This whole entire facility is paid for outside of local tax dollars,” Martin said. “This is all competitive grant money, which is very helpful.”

Franklin Tech also has a “full-fledged aviation mechanic technician program” which will eventually be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). There also will be a taxiway which is connected to a neighboring main runway at Turners Falls Municipal Airport. The airport and school are located next to one another.

Currently, the school has six planes and one helicopter, but the goal is to have eight aircraft in total once the program is running.

“This is all Rick’s brainchild,” said Bryan Camden, airport manager for the Town of Montague, about the new aviation program. “We’re just along for the ride. But we’re excited because this is the largest structure in our airport. It’ll be the second-largest hangar in Franklin County. It’s a unique program. It’s gonna bring a lot of notoriety to the area.”

Martin said the most important part of this program is to provide a training facility for students so that they can find a job within the aviation field, “anywhere in the world.”

“So for those that are adventurous, and may be thinking outside the box of Franklin County, it’s a program that kind of allows you to fly your way out,” Martin said. “We have one of the most high-demand jobs that is non-existent in the labor market that we need to fill. That’s the mission of our school, to be able to provide skilled trades that close the employment gap.”