The event marked a red-letter moment in La Grande High School’s history.

A open house attended by nearly 75 people Thursday was held to celebrate La Grande High School’s new $2.75 million Career Technical Education building. The building, now virtually finished after its construction started last summer, is in select company, said LHS Principal Brett Baxter.

“I don’t know of any other school in our region that has a CTE building that can compare to this,” Baxter said.

The 14,500-square-foot building features a large state-of-the-art welding shop, a computer hub from which designs can be sent to a 3D printer or the welding lab, a biomedical science classroom, a business lab and an industrial system lab for small engine repair training. It was constructed with funds from the $31.85 million bond voters approved in 2014.

Those who were saluted during the open house included Rob Roberts, president of R&M Steel Co. in Caldwell, Idaho. He donated the primary materials for the new building, totaling close to $250,000.

Roberts said his company stepped forward to help LHS because it was impressed with the way the school was developing its CTE programs. He also said he hopes that students emerge from LHS’s CTE program with welding skills attractive to employers, including his company.

Roberts said he was stunned when he walked into the new LHS building, calling it “gorgeous.”

“It is awesome,” he said.

He believes the building’s welding lab will be a hit with students.

“Students will want to go there. A lot will not want to go home at the end of the day. You will have to kick them out,” Roberts said.

LHS Assistant Principal Scott Carpenter said that without Roberts’ donation, the building would have been 9,800 square feet instead of 14,500 square feet.

Welding classes started in the new building several weeks ago. Baxter said he will never forget how students reacted when they walked into the building for the first time.

“They were absolutely silent the first minute. You could have heard a pin drop,” Baxter said.

The welding shop replaced an old one in a CTE building that was torn down last summer. Other features of the new welding facilities include booths with greatly improved ventilation and connections to a gas distribution system. Gas is fed to the stations from fuel cylinders outside the building, a big improvement over the old lab where each welding booth had a gas cylinder that took up space and presented safety issues, Baxter said.

See complete story in Friday's Observer