Ozark Innovation Center Marks New Era of Secondary Learning
A dream years in the making finally became a reality, Oct. 14, 2022, as hundreds of state and local community members gathered outside what was once known as the Fasco building to officially cut the ribbon for the Ozark Innovation Center and usher in a new era of learning for the District.
“Our District is changing how we educate by challenging the ‘factory model’ of teaching with the conversion of this factory into a facility that inspires purpose and creates success-ready students,” Superintendent Dr. Chris Bauman said.
Leaders from around the state spoke at the event praising Ozark’s innovation and initiative to push the envelope of what learning can look like, acting as a model for the rest of the state.
“I absolutely love it when I come to a place such as Ozark, and I knew there was cool stuff happening and I knew that you guys were on the brink of something awesome,” Missouri State Senator Karla Eslinger said.
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Dr. Margie Vandeven added that in recent years students have started to lose their sense of purpose in school and the OIC helps guide students through that.
“They don’t even really know what they’re called to do or why they’re here,” she said, “and so, when I say to you how grateful I am to see you providing this level of exposure to all the different opportunities, to help our children find their passion to move forward into the world, I say thank you. Thank you for your leadership.”
Bauman added that this building was made possible by the support of the Ozark community, the state and the District, which will help students soar.
“We build a stronger community by helping our children become the best version of themselves. This investment alone will separate our community from all of those around us,” he said.
“Our children will solve problems not yet known and have the confidence to climb to heights not yet seen.”
Operation Renovate and Innovate
The Ozark Innovation Center was a project years in the making as a part of the District’s long-term plan: Operation Renovate and Innovate.
Discussion about the OIC began as early as 2018, but the project really began to pick up steam when the District purchased the building at 1600 W. Jackson St., previously Fasco Industries Inc., for $4.1 million in July of 2019.
“In 2019, our school board challenged our District to stop the ambiguity of using ‘all’ students in our decision-making and shift our focus to ‘each’ student,” Bauman said. “The Ozark School District’s purpose is to provide a high-quality education for each student’s future readiness. We accomplish this through the vision of our District, an innovative school district preparing students to use their talents for success.”
A year later in June of 2020 voters approved a $26.5 million no-tax-increase bond issue to help renovate the old Fasco building to be the Ozark Innovation Center as well as renovate and expand Tiger Paw Early Childhood Center.
In May of 2021, workers broke ground on both the Ozark Innovation Center and Tiger Paw and both were completed earlier this year for students to begin using at the start of the 2022-23 school year.
The Construction Process
The construction process for the Ozark Innovation Center lasted just over a year, from May 2021 to fall of 2022, a process that was complicated by inflation, worker shortages, supply chain issues and a global pandemic, according to Assistant Superintendent of Operations Dr. Curtis Chesick.
“But we made it and we made it based on team Ozark,” he said.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Chesick thanked architects Esterly Schneider & Associates and construction manager DeWitt & Associates, along with district staff members including the technology, maintenance, and custodial departments who helped with demolition of the building, placing roughly 52 miles of network cables, and putting together furniture.
“We are thankful for all the work they have done turning this historic building into a building that’s going to shape the future of Ozark for many more generations,” Chesick said.
Chesick said the District spent $190 per square foot on renovating the 170,000-square-foot space, 11,000 of which includes the relocated district office.
Purpose of the OIC
The Ozark Innovation Center serves as a second campus for Ozark High School, embodying the District’s new Academy structure with state of the art facilities for students to learn about everything from the culinary arts to health science.
“This building is a tool,” Assistant Superintendent of Learning Dr. Craig Carson said. “The OIC is a tool to help us reach our ‘Portrait of a Graduate’ that the Ozark community helped us write.”
Ozark High School Principal Dr. Jeremy Brownfield said this new center gives the high school much needed space but will also give students many new opportunities.
“It will also allow our students to learn from community and industry leaders both inside the Ozark Innovation Center and in the community throughout many business partnerships,” he said.
Carson said this is only the beginning and the OIC will help education continue to grow and change in the Ozark community.
“We’re at the verge of something great and we want it to keep going,” he said.
Learn more about our Academy Model here.
Learn about Fasco history in this article.