Doors Open to Wider Educational Vistas
The path to educational opportunities has become a whole lot more accessible for a large rural swath of Central Oregon after the unveiling of the Central Oregon Community College Crook County Open Campus in Prineville.
Ushered in through a collaborative partnership between Central Oregon Community College, Oregon Open Campus (a COCC-Oregon State University Extension Service initiative) and Crook County, the newly opened 12,300 square foot state-of-the-art facility includes seven flexible multi-purpose classrooms and meeting rooms, together with 65 wired and wireless public computer stations and administrative office space.
Completed in time for the fall term, enrolment is already building fast for programs which will evolve to reflect community demand, with a focus on core areas including work force development, expanded options for high school students, college credit classes and life-long learning. Space will also be available for community gatherings, which will ease pressure on alternate venues oversubscribed by a vibrant local population.
The building was funded by proceeds from the voter-approved November 2009 COCC bond measure and from a U.S. Department of Commerce Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant – as part of stimulus funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act aiming at widening high-speed broadband access across the country – as well as donated land and cash from Crook County and a variety of private (including the Ford Family Foundation) and local contributions.
A planning committee drawn from the key operational partners and the broader community ensured that the classrooms incorporate “smart” technology employing the latest video broadcasting and audio-visual techniques for both distance and face-to-face learning.
One classroom has been equipped as a “teaching kitchen” to offer advancement in all things culinary. Funds also flowed toward equipping a mobile lab – dubbed the ‘bitmobile’ – with satellite connectivity and numerous workstations to take on the road and offer instruction and training to remote areas of the county.
The new resources are especially welcome as a means to provide opportunities to “place-bound” learners – one of the primary goals of the education access committee – as well as cutting the need for others to travel out of the community to advance
OSU Crook County Staff Chair Tim Deboodt, who was one of several principal drivers of the project, said, “Not to the exclusion of anyone else in the tri-county area, but the facility is positioned to concentrate on the needs of Crook County residents, and the curriculum will develop as we identify the wants and needs of local citizens.
“There will be some permanent staffing in terms of teaching and administration, but mostly instructors will be coming in and utilizing office space for class preparation, and, in that sense, we have one person traveling rather than 30 students traveling.
“We will also have flexible, broad hours of operation ranging from 8am to 10pm aimed at delivering opportunities when users are available, including access to the computer lab, night classes and weekend classes.
“One important area we are working on is professional development training – which can reduce costs and travel time and help existing business grow. We are also working with a consortium of health care providers in the same direction as part of helping to improve skills.
“Another program we are looking at is in the server technician sector. Many businesses have the need for such consultants but currently the nearest certified programs are as far afield as Seattle or San Francisco. Our leadership is excited to see where we can go in terms of widening educational opportunities.”
The original concept was for a 4,000 square foot building conversion as an outcrop of the existing OSU Extension program, but grew to the goal of a 12,000 square foot purpose-built facility in an effort to cater to the potential long-term growth needs of the community.
Steele Associates Architects was selected to develop the design and started preliminary work in July 2009, meeting with project leaders every other week for six months.
Concurrently, funding was pursued, with the COCC board agreeing to commit financial resources which topped $1 million, and the county donating money and land – off Lynn Boulevard in close proximity to the fairgrounds site – totaling $750,000, to kick start the project.
Additional fundraising was pursued through a variety of avenues, with a big step being the landing of the $3.9 million federal grant in July 2010, with such funds going towards not only the ‘bricks and mortar’ of construction, but also the technology going in to the building, upgrading of the mobile computer lab and staffing needs for the first three years.
Timing proved fortuitous regarding the government funding program which was geared towards “shovel ready” stimulus projects, and ground was broken to launch construction within five months of grant receipt. CS Construction was selected as General Contractor for the project, with ownership and operational agreements put in place as part of the unique collaborative scenario including Crook County, COCC and OSU.
Regarding the eventual look of the facility, Steele Associates Principal Scott Steele said, “The design and planning team wanted the substantial feel of a higher educational institution, while retaining the unique features and flavor of the region.
“There was great support from everyone we dealt with – this is palpably very important to the local community.
“We would also like to thank Crook County, COCC and OSU for letting us be part of their team on the new education center, a wonderful facility that will foster greater higher education opportunity in Crook County for generations.”
The building is wood framed with masonry veneers and utilizes many local materials, including native volcanic tuff stone in columns which helps tie in with other local architecture.
Natural light is much in evidence with many open views of the fairgrounds and beyond and a large lobby common area for student and public gathering, and a founders wall highlighting and honor-ing contributors.
A suspended structural cross brace with an articulated central circle is a striking entryway feature, while many sustainable elements have been designed into the project, including motion sensor lights, passive solar, permeable pavers, sun screening, low flow bathroom fixtures, and a highly efficient HVAC system.
Prineville native Suzie Kristensen has been hired by the COCC Board as the full-time coordinator of the Crook County Campus, and will provide scheduling for COCC classes in the community as well as gathering and analyzing market information regarding needed credit and non-credit classes, and the programs and services needed to meet education and training needs. She also serves as COCC’s local community outreachand information source for college programs, services and opportunities.
Kristensen, who has a broad educational and marketing background, said, “As a native resident, and a graduate of Crook County High School, I am really excited to be working in Prineville again. It is an honor and a privilege to offer COCC services in my hometown.”
Scott Cooper, who helped push the nascent idea for an education and technology center when a Crook County judge for the best part of a decade before leaving office at the end of 2008 to become executive director for the Partnership to End Poverty, said, “I look with a great deal of pride on the opening of this facility. It is an engine of change in a community poised for change.
“Companies like Facebook are just the beginning. By investing in a skilled workforce and creating opportunity for local residents to remain competitive, Prineville and Crook County are positioning themselves for a new economy and a new day.”
COCC President Jim Middleton added, “Having our own facility in Crook County in conjunction with our partners is a time of significant transformation in the Central Oregon educational environment.
“It provides new opportunity to create broader offerings for residents in this part of our district to seek advice, to explore college and to begin changing their lives.
“This fall will truly be an important milestone in shaping their futures. We are thrilled to be part of this educational partnership and to be able to offer the variety of classes, programs and services to residents of Crook County.”