ROCKPORT, Texas — A building that was once a place to educate the youngest minds is now becoming an institute of higher education.
Hurricane Harvey left Little Bay Primary School so badly damaged in 2017, that the Aransas County Independent School District never reopened it.
Now, more than $2.1 million in grant money and donations from the community are being used to renovate the building to be used as a workforce development center.
“This is a natural growth for us is to provide adult education here for those people that want to either change their careers or learn about new skills, re-skill, or what we call up skill,” said Lenora Keas, the executive vice president and chief operating officer for Del Mar College — which will operate the facility.
The leader of the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce says Aransas County businesses have been calling for a workforce development center for years.
Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Probst said, “if we could get help to the people in the community to get better training and have better jobs and things like that," is what businesses would request.
The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration issued a $1.7 million grant for the center earlier this year. Since then, more than 20 organizations, businesses, and residents have donated the additional $400,000.
The more than 16,000 square foot building is set to open as the Aransas County Workforce Development Center next spring with the goal of educating around 800 students each year.
“We just want this to be a big success," Keas said. "And we’re looking to become a greater part of the community. And we welcome the students. And we’re anxious to get started.”
And when that happens, it will come with the added bonus of getting rid of an eyesore along busy Highway 35 Business.
"No one wants a vacant building on their major thoroughfare," Probst said. "And now for it to be a facility to educate, to train your people for the future, how cool is that? So yeah, it’s a big deal for us.”