Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Solano Community College Taking Shape

Solano Community College Taking Shape
Vallejo Satellite Campus to Open a Semester Early
By NOLAN HEBERT/Times-Herald correspondent

Gerald Fisher, Solano Community College interim superintendent, leads a tour through the Vallejo satellite campus currently under construction. (Nolan Hebert/Times-Herald)

Solano Community College's new Vallejo satellite campus will start next fall, a semester early, because construction is way ahead of schedule, officials said Friday.

Originally slated to begin early 2008, classes will now begin mid-October and run until the end of the regular semester period. The compacted eight-week classes will meet for twice as many hours each week, said Gerald Fisher, Solano Community College interim superintendent.

Students studying at the current local extension, one floor below the JFK Library on Santa Clara Street, will move to the new site even earlier - sometime in mid-September - to help "debug" the building, Fisher said.

"Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing, all systems have to to be tested to make sure they function at 100 percent," said Frank Kitchen, Solano Community College director of facilities.

The first regular-length semester will be spring 2008, and about 1,000 students are expected to enroll, Fisher said.

The campus is beginning to take shape, and construction is expected to finish sometime in September - five to six weeks early, Kitchen said.

Local representatives touring Solano Community College's Vallejo satellite campus Friday morning were required to wear hard hats as they made their way through active construction.

Walls are up and starting to be painted. The skeletons of classrooms and lecture halls have been constructed and most have been covered with sheet rock.

"It is a great first class building with a great location, it's a great service to the area," said Mayor Tony Intintoli, Jr., who was on Friday's tour.

Located on Columbus Parkway, the new campus will make higher education more convenient for local residents.

"We are becoming a complete educational city," said City Council member Hermie Sunga.

By 2010 to 2012, the facility could be home to about 3,500 students, Fisher said.

The 40,000-square-foot Vallejo Center will be five times larger than the current local extension.

Funds from measure G, a 2002 voter-approved bond, are paying for the $22.1 million satellite campus.

The Vallejo center consists of two separate buildings housing 15 classrooms, a large lecture hall, computer lab, learning lab, multi-use room, fine arts facilities, faculty office space, and will have wireless capability.

For some, the new campus brings back memories of the college's 1945 start in Vallejo when it was named Vallejo Junior College.

"This is like coming home," said Chris Rhoden, a consultant for Kitchell Corporation, the company managing construction. Rhoden taught for Solano Community College in 1966 when classes were run out of a Vallejo-area elementary school.

Solano Community College moved to its 192-acre Fairfield campus in 1971.

Plans are also in the works to build a 60-acre campus in Vacaville, Fisher said.

"We would really like to be a higher education hub for the area," said Fisher. He added that Solano Community College has held preliminary talks with Sonoma State University that might make it possible for local students to complete four-year degrees without leaving the area.

"The big fees are not so much tuition as housing," Fisher said.

Although some continuity in the discussions has been lost because Solano Community College is looking for a new president, Fisher said a partnership with a four-year university might allow students to enroll in a four-year college while completing their studies at a Solano Community College campus.

Sarah Rohrs, Times-Herald staff writer, contributed to this article.

Contact Nolan Hebert by e-mail at nolan.hebert@gmail.com or call 553-6825.

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