Over the last couple of months, the Waldo County Technical Center has been making its facilities available to area groups as a community resource hub.

In an interview with The Republican Journal July 30, WCTC Director Kevin Michaud said this summer, the school has been in "rebranding mode," including the installation of a new street sign and brush trimming on either side of the property for higher visibility and safety.

"Part of the effort is to let people know we're open for business and the community is invited," he said. Career and technical education centers have always suffered from a negative image, according to Michaud, something he is working hard to change. By inviting the community into the facility, he hopes to introduce people to the many programs available at the center.

"I just wanted people to know, we've added community to our philosophy," Michaud said.

"Obviously, we're not able to accommodate every group that needs our space or assistance," he said,"but we do want the hardworking people of Waldo County to realize that we are still here and plan to be helping out our neighbors, constituents and community partners for many years to come."

The culinary arts kitchen and cafe at WCTC have been transformed during this time into a staging and food prep area for Waldo Community Action Partners summer food distribution program. Twice weekly, several days' worth of meals are packed and placed on delivery vehicles stopping at sites in Belfast, Swanville, Searsport and Stockton Springs.

WCAP also sponsored two "shop" type distribution events held at WCTC where individuals picked needed items including produce, frozen meats, shelf-stable milk and cheese. Michaud said the line of cars was out to the edge of the parking lot.

"They had approached us about using the building," Michaud said. "The building was just sitting here unused. We figured it should be used for something good," and the school board agreed.

As the weather turned warmer, the Waldo County Technical Center parking lot transformed into an interim meeting site for twice-a-week drive-in services for Calvary Chapel-Belfast, as well as the summer home for the Greater Pen-Bay Driving Academy, based in Knox.

Michaud said Gil Russell, WCTC's auto collision/composites teacher, who is also a member of the Calvary church, told him the church had been displaced. The church was able to do a drive-in service in the parking lot with the sermon being broadcast on an FM radio frequency, Michaud said.

“Every Thursday and Sunday, for two months,” he said, “tons of people that had never come here were exposed to the center.” In appreciation, a fellowship group associated with the church “took the kitchen apart and cleaned everything.”

"Our well established music rehearsal areas have also been utilized this summer by a few local groups," Michaud said. "There is a lot of interest in the music program."

"Additionally, as we continued our deliberations with RSU 71 about eventually becoming the hub for Literacy Volunteers of Waldo County," he said, "we started housing their book donations for a new summer reading/book distribution program for young readers."

Finally, WCTC is gearing up to offer occupational retraining to residents of the Reentry Center, and programs will get underway this fall. Classes in basic composites, fine woodworking, basic welding and audio engineering will be offered, and Michaud said they hope to begin in late September or early October, with a phased implementation.

Throughout all of this, Michaud said, they have followed the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines and have given many tours to curious visitors.

Michaud said that although the school has “retooled” its yearly orientation program for middle school students, enrollment numbers are still down. This year the county experienced its lowest enrollment of high school students in a long time, he said, which trickles down to the number of kids taking programs at the school.

For the last three years, enrollment at WCTC has been flat, at approximately 200 students, he said, and the school is anticipating approximately 175 for the coming year.

“While we've developed a good rapport and working relationship with all three schools and have implored them to send us more students, we have just not seen this turn around like we'd hoped it would. Yes, COVID-19 has played a role in this, and we might see an additional dozen or so students attend, but … we always welcome more,” Michaud said.

For more information on programs available, or to inquire about renting one of the  rehearsal spaces, call Michaud at 342-5231, ext. 204, or email him at kmichaud@waldotech.org.