The Lucia Mar Unified School District broke ground Monday at an empty plot on the edge of Nipomo High School's campus that soon will be home to the school's Career Technical Education and agricultural program. 

Described as a first-class, state-of-the-art facility, the building will feature three dedicated classrooms for the agriculture program and a new space to accommodate the school's welding program.

Although groundbreaking began Monday, construction of the facility has already begun offsite. District officials anticipate that the project will be completed by December, in time for second-semester classes. 

While several officials noted the need for a dedicated facility has been apparent for several years, Katie Salcido, director of curriculum projects, said that conversations about what it would take to build a new facility began three years ago, and took off after voters passed Measure I last fall.

"We knew there was a need and tried to find the funding," she said, adding that construction of the new building will be funded through Measure I, developer fees and grant money made available through Proposition 51's Career Technical Education Facilities Program.

Thanking the crowd for attending, Nipomo High School Principal John Denno expressed his excitement about being able to bring the project to life. According to Denno, the new facility will provide the 40 percent of the school body that participates in the agricultural program with up-to-date facilities built around providing an exceptional learning environment.

"We are incredibly excited to soon have facilities that will further support our staff and enrich our student experience," he said. "Nipomo High School is committed to ensuring that each student is ready for the community, a career or college, and I'm confident that the program these facilities support are leading that work."

Chad Robertson, president of the Lucia Mar Unified School District Board of Education, said the facility is something the program and greater agriculture community have been waiting a long time for. 

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"We will provide the amazing staff and students the amazing first-class facilities they deserve and have worked so hard to achieve," he said. "The Nipomo community has a strong agricultural background, and we're very proud of the NHS ag program."

For Rosemary Cummings, adviser for the Nipomo High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) program, news of the building's looming completion was a welcome surprise.

"It's like a homecoming for us," she said. "We've been in portable classrooms for some time; now, we'll have a permanent home."

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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