By Linda Dillman
Professional quality printing is coming to the classroom as Canal Winchester High School—in conjunction with the building’s school store—is preparing to open up its Fab Lab, a workshop/classroom/production facility operated by students.
Funded by a Title 1 Expanding Opportunities Grant, the lab is a print production program for the district that will feature commercial grade equipment.
Canal Winchester Schools Treasurer Nick Roberts said the cost of the equipment is $350,000. However, the grant not only covered the bill, it also afforded the district the opportunity to hire a professional consultant to work with students without taking any money out of the general fund.
“We’ve ordered some machinery to help us in printing on shirts, digital printers, screen printing and embroidery machines,” said Canal Winchester Schools Superintendent James Sotlar, who added the inventory includes the capability to do laser engraving on items like glassware and wood. “What we really want to do is to have this be a self-sustaining, school-based, student-centered print shop where we can print stuff for the district like our athletic teams, for the buildings and even the CWJRD (Canal Winchester Joint Recreation District).”
Sotlar said at the heart of the program is the ability for students to earn work hours, learn employment skills and work toward industrial credentials with the potential to prepare for a career in the print production field or graphic design.
Sotlar said the school store covers the financial side of the project and now the production side will be covered as well.
“Hopefully, it will continue to grow and become a very self-sustaining program that will do most of the work in-house,” said Sotlar. “This covers a lot of different academics. It’s really an opportunity for the school district to have something other people will want to model upon. This is truly exciting. Not a lot of high schools, if any in Ohio, have this type of print production.”
According to Sotlar, in order to make the program work, the district needed a professional trained to work on the machines, with troubleshooting knowledge and who is able to train students and staff.
During the July 19 Canal Winchester Board of Education meeting, Frank Byers was hired to serve as a consultant for the print production program. Sotlar said Byers has spent 26 years in the field and his $36,000 contract runs through the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
Board President Mike Yonnotti asked if there were any plans to grow the program beyond the needs of the district and into the community at large. Sotlar replied that is a goal for three to five years into the future.