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Woodworking class suspended, upsetting some BTC students

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
December 20, 2007

Blackhawk Technical College has suspended woodworking classes at its central campus starting in January, upsetting some students.


About 20 students attended the Blackhawk Tech Board meeting Wednesday night, and 13 spoke about their concerns, said one of the students, Carolyn Lawrence.


The suspension is out of concern for students' safety, college spokesman Len Walker said.


Wood dust from the woodworking shop at the central campus has been infiltrating the nearby welding lab.


"When you strike a welding torch, there is a potential for an explosion," Walker said.


The district's insurance company brought the danger to the college's attention early this fall.


The college then employed a consultant to test the air and confirm the problem, Walker said.


Lawrence said students didn't know of the problem until recently.


The time it took to notify officials, hire the consultant and get the test results was the reason the classes weren't suspended until now, Walker said.


"We were just surprised because we had registered for spring semester, and then they call us Friday and said that the class has been suspended," said Lawrence, a former BTC Board member.


"A lot of us were really upset," said Lawrence, who called The Janesville Gazette to express her displeasure.


It's not clear how many students would be affected. Longtime woodworking instructor Dale Krueger said he and another instructor teach eight classes at the central campus.


The board was scheduled to hear a report on the problem but not to take any action Wednesday. The administration still is exploring its options, Walker said.


Walker said district officials have found some options cost-prohibitive, especially because the income from the noncredit woodworking classes would never pay for them.


Walker said many students have been taking the courses for a long time and are used to being in a class at the time and place to which they have become accustomed and with the people they have developed camaraderie.


Lawrence said she and other senior citizens helped pass BTC's 2002 expansion referendum, and they would like access to BTC programs in which they are interested.


Walker noted that classes scheduled in Edgerton, Milton and Monroe have not been canceled, and the district is exploring the possibility of starting new classes in other communities, including Janesville.


Krueger said he has taught BTC woodworking classes at high schools in the past, and while those shops are fine for high school purposes, the industrial-grade equipment at the central campus is superior, so the kinds of things he could teach would be limited.


The memo also mentions an insurance-company concern about toxic fumes from the woodworking shop. Krueger said the fumes were from a furniture-refinishing class.


He said the fume problem was solved with the use of a fireproof chest in which refinishing projects are stored now.


At a glance

The Blackhawk Technical College board was given four options to fix the problem:


-- Move the woodworking shop, at a cost exceeding $200,000.


-- Explore permanent relocation of woodworking classes to community locations. Classes have been held at various high schools in the past.


-- Buy ventilation equipment at a cost of about $30,000.


-- Move the welding lab in fall 2008 and resume woodworking classes at that time.



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