Chuck Hanley, foreground, and Dan Klok with Blazy Construction work on the foundation of an addition to Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna last week. Site preparation began July 1 and the project is expected to be done Dec. 16.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
Many students and teachers took a break this summer, but that doesn't mean work stopped at Kenai Peninsula College.
For the past few months the campus has been buzzing with renovation and construction activity.
"It's going to be a really exciting year. It really is," said KPC Director Gary Turner.
The most noticeable work is an addition to the Walter E. Ward building at the left end of campus, if facing the facility from the parking lot. Blazy Construction of Soldotna got the $1.2 million bid to add three classrooms and two offices off the front of the building. With furnishings, the expansion is expected to cost $1.5 million in all, said Phillip Miller, KPC maintenance supervisor. It is being paid for through general obligation bonds approved by voters in 2002.
The addition will be tiered with each classroom sunk 18 inches lower than the one behind it. The rooms will have movable walls that can be opened to create a tiered auditorium space with a capacity of 230 people. A portable stage will make the space the new home for KPC Showcase programs and other performances.
The scheduled finish date of the addition, Dec. 16, can't come soon enough for Turner.
"We're always short on classrooms," he said, noting that the college has held classes in nearby Alaska Christian College and Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School. "This will help us have more of our classes on campus. We'll still be short, but this will certainly help."
Other work done outside the facility includes expanding the front sidewalk to 8 feet wide instead of 4 feet, enhancing handicap parking, putting in flower beds and having the Kenai Peninsula Borough Spruce Bark Beetle Mitigation program clear out dead and infected spruce trees up to 120 feet back from all college-owned roads.
The inside of campus buildings have received attention, as well. On a cosmetic level, every classroom that wasn't painted last year got a fresh coat this year and all the rooms are getting new dry-erase boards.
Even something as mundane as display boards have been redone, with workers replacing the "'60s-style" cork boards with slat boards, Miller said.
With as much as KPC has grown over the years, the college is always looking for ways to utilize its facility efficiently.
"As tight as we are on space, we're trying to figure out better ways to do things," Turner said.
Starting in the Clayton E. Brockel Building, at the right end of campus, KPC maintenance staff have given the Learning Center a makeover that's been 20 years in coming.
The space got cosmetic work including a bright new paint job and all new furniture. An adjacent office also has been converted into extra space for the program. In all that project cost about $50,000, Miller said.
A room across the hall used for writing classes got new computer desks and computers to replace aging laptops. The room, like all classrooms at KPC, is being outfitted with standardized audio-visual equipment, including a projector, DVD player and sound system that pipes audio through speakers in the ceiling.
"Our goal is to have every classroom configured the same," Turner said.
That way professors don't have to haul equipment with them and won't have to learn new systems every time they teach in a different room.
Also in the technology vein, computers have been placed outside the campus bookstore in the Enid S. McLane Building so students can register for classes and access some University of Alaska services online. Down the hall in the Clarence Goodrich Building, the ground-floor computer lab is seeing some remodeling. New, space-efficient furniture has created enough room to add office space next to the lab.
"It's integral to free up offices for program enhancement and expansion," Miller said.
The office will house server equipment and consolidate technology personnel in one spot, instead of being split upstairs and down.
Another classroom in the Goodrich Building has been shrunk to create new office space, and the building also houses the first class to be fully equipped as a video conferencing room, allowing a professor to teach a class at KPC that students can take in Homer, Seward or Anchorage, or vice versa.
The room serving as home to the emergency medical service program, started last year, and the new paramedic program got a face-lift, as well, with new flooring and storage cabinets.
In the Ward building, the engine rebuild and ceramics shops swapped rooms, giving engine rebuild a sealed classroom away from dust and the ceramics program access to sinks and floor drains and a place to house its new kiln.
With the majority of work done, all that's left is the details.
"Philip's sure doing a terrific job giving us a face lift. It's kind of an extreme makeover," Kendrick said. "The students will be really appreciative of it."
"And faculty, too," Turner added.
The remodeling projects are being paid for out of the college's maintenance and repair and operating budgets, which is money that comes from the University of Alaska system through an annual appropriation by the Legislature.
Turner said KPC also has been tightening its belt in cost-cutting measures. Utilizing employees for renovation work instead of hiring contractors was a big savings in itself.
"We've got such a talented maintenance staff now that we can do a lot of this stuff in house," Turner said.
That staff is finishing up the work this week and next so the campus will be ready for KPC's welcome back barbecue from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 25 and the start of classes Aug. 29.
"Oh, everything will be ready. I'm not worried about that," Miller said.
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