The Collbran Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center at Grand Mesa High School will soon see a big change, but the good news for the school is that the center will remain open.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced May 24 that it had accepted a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating that the USDA's Forest Service will withdraw from operating the job centers. The release also lists 16 job centers that will remain open with new operators, including the center in Collbran — the only such center in Colorado.
Grand Mesa High School Principal Wendy Nichols said that she and the staff are relieved the center will remain open, but there is some uncertainty in how things will move forward.
"We're kind of in limbo waiting on direction and feedback," Nichols said. "We're trying to proceed as normal."
The center runs year-round for students age 16-24. Nichols said the Collbran job center is the only one in the country that contains a partnership between a state and federal entity. Students at Grand Mesa High School are enrolled in the program and take core classes at the school. They also enroll to learn trades such as welding and maintenance, office administration technologies, cement masonry, culinary arts and carpentry and floor covering.
Students outside of the high school do not need to take core classes. There is no charge to enroll in the program. The Collbran center currently has 166 students enrolled.
In a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor, the organization said it had reviewed the program's performance and outcome to determine the best path forward.
"Accordingly, the majority of CCC operations will be replaced by new contract operators or a partnership overseen by Department of Labor," the release read. "Centers with new operators will implement new policies and approaches that will offer students the skills they need to earn an independent living and succeed in meaningful in-demand jobs."
A statement from U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said the congressman is happy to see that the Collbran center will remain open. It continued to state that Tipton's staff had reached out to the Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's office to raise the importance of the conservation centers and that Tipton disapproves of closing several programs around the country.
He may also look into legislative action, the statement read.