Vo-tech program rolls out new press
De Soto school district students interested in a print production career are getting a new option in training.
A flexographic printing press is being set up in Countryside Elementary, a tangible sign of the district's expanding opportunities for vocation-technical education.
The printing program is the brainchild of Ralph Beacham, associate executive director of the Education Service Center at Greenbush, which contracts with a consortium of area school districts to provide vocational-technical classes.
Three years ago Beacham started looking into the idea of upgrading the program's printing capabilities. He was aware of the growing press operator industry; particularly flexographic printing that existed in the Johnson County area.
But to turn his idea into reality, Beacham needed to find funding and space.
Thirteen local and national companies collaborated to provide the money, equipment, and training necessary to allow Greenbush to begin teaching flexographic technology. The Foundation of the Flexographic Technical Association, Robbie Manufacturing, and Ron Harper of Harper Corporation played the most significant roles in bringing everything together.
"This addition to our program is a reality because of the unbelievable partnerships between school and industry," said Jim Lynch, graphic communication instructor at Countryside.
Beacham found space at Countryside, which Greenbush is leasing from the De Soto School District. The vocational courses dealing with graphic communication had been taught in Olathe in years past. As for the equipment upgrades, the flexographic printing press was obtained at what Beacham describes as very little cost. Beacham says the district's vocational education curriculum now has a technology that no one else can claim.
"No one else in the state is currently offering flexographic printing technology to their students," Beacham said. "We want to keep expanding options to students that aren't available anywhere else."
Beacham and Greenbush are always keeping their eyes open for additional space that may become available in the area. Recently, they reached an agreement to offer a wider variety of courses, ranging from culinary arts to auto collision repair, at the old Eudora Middle School after the new high school opens this fall.
"As they make the move to the new (Eudora) High School we'll be able to offer more courses," Beacham said. "We'll be able to use the site to expand an engineering program that will involve industry in Johnson and Douglas County, especially businesses along K-10 Highway."
The graphics communication program has been operating for the past three years, incorporating elements from desktop publishing to commercial art. Greenbush attempts to update the program every year to keep the curriculum current with industry trends. Lynch and fellow Greenbush instructors are ready for classes to begin Aug. 20, as the new production equipment is set up and ready for use.
"The district has done a great job with us as the technology has continued to advance," Lynch said. "This new flexographic lab allows us to keep up with all the processes of printing."