RED WING -- When it comes to referendum planning and promises, it can be hard to imagine what will actually happen prior to or shortly after the vote.

At Red Wing High School, the planning and promises are now coming to fruition, and the public is invited to see one of them. On Sept. 25 at 11 a.m., people may view the renovations and upgrades to the metal and woodworking shop.

The high school shop was in dire need of improvements. Metals teacher Doug Barlow said he looks forward to teaching more than fixing. Barlow and other staff needed to keep the equipment in working order for their students, doing their best over the years on tight budgets.

Since the passing of the referendum, raising the price per pupil to $1,200 for five years, plus an additional $450 per student, the shop has been able to replace equipment that dated to the days of the Korean War. Some of the equipment Barlow used when he graduated from high school.

Bringing students to welding competitions was difficult, Barlow said. Students had practiced on the 1984 MIG welding machines in class, but had to compete on digital MIG welding machines. Now, they’re right with their peers.

Putting students in the best position to succeed after high school is Mick Wendland’s job. The Flight Paths coordinator is working to establish a career exploration path for, among others, engineering, manufacturing and technology.

Currently, the district’s Learn & Earn Program -- in partnership with Red Wing Ignite -- has put students in internships where they can apply some of the skills used in the shop toward a potential career.

“There’s a lot more you can learn from doing than in a lecture setting," Wendland said.

Barlow said he heard time and time again from the public about having hands-on learning be a top priority. It wasn’t just parents they heard from, but businesses as well.

Barlow said the trades are in dire need of trained, reliable workers. With the referendum money in place, the district will be able to send prepared and competitive students on whatever path they choose.

“I’ve been around long enough, ya know, enough gray hair, that you can see the pendulum swing,” Barlow said about the way teaching has evolved over the years. “It doesn’t move very fast, but when I came into the business the hands on education was pretty strong. When I was in high school, back in the day, that was a big push. Then as I was here, every kid’s going to go to college. All of a sudden we’re sending a lot of kids to college but the numbers of kids that finishing that or are working in those programs were dropping dramatically.”

Now, it feels like the pendulum is swinging back toward more hands-on, trade-skill based education.

“Everyone has a niche in school,” Barlow said. “We’re providing one of those niches. Hopefully we’re one of those niches where we can light that fire under any one of those kids that we talked about.”

Wendland said the goal of the Flight Paths isn’t to push kids into or away from any particular career field or educational opportunity. Rather, instructor simply want to present them with options and make them more aware and prepared when they leave school.

The public is offered the chance to tour and learn more about the shop renovations and improvements at the high school. For more information, visit the district’s website.