Construction disruption: Staff, students excited about new buildings but tired of the inconvenience



The former site of Harlan, Olney, the Business and Management Center, and the Administration Building, (top), was cleared to make room for the new Academic Center (above).

The former site of Harlan, Olney, the Business and Management Center, and the Administration Building, (top), was cleared to make room for the new Academic Center (above).

By Roddy Heckelman

Construction is a continuing theme at College of Marin, as it enters it’s ninth year of the Modernization Project. Funded by a $250 million measure C bond acquired in 2004, the modernization project is all about modernizing old classrooms, providing new technology for smart class rooms, and creating a more fire safe campus. The most recent work done on College of Marin Kentfield campus, since Spring 2013, was the demolition of Olney Hall, Harlan Center, the Business and Management Center, and Taqueria Mexican Grill de Marin. These buildings were demolished to make room for the new Academic Center, which will include new smart classrooms, lab classrooms, and new offices. Although the construction has created short term issues, it is hoped the long term benefits will outweigh the frustration of waiting.

The long term construction at College of Marin has been a problem for Faculty and students alike. A big problem for students during heavy construction are the noises associated with heavy machinery. COM student Neve Douglas said that her teacher, “Went and banged on the windows when the construction workers were right there,” because the noise was so disruptive to her class.

The noise was so disruptive in fact that Behavioral Science Department Chair Jessica Park said, “My students couldn’t hear me… I had to cancel class three times last spring semester because of the noise.” Besides the noise that invariably goes along with construction there is also debris, and a variety of smells and odors. When construction workers were pouring tar, some of Park’s students became ill from the smells and fumes of the tar. She said that because of the lack of available classrooms caused by construction, a lot of classes were moved to the portable classrooms by the athletic fields. This created more problems, including a lack of technology in the portables.

Most classes, like Human Sexuality, need what are known as ‘Smart Classrooms,’ which have internet access, projectors, and computers, to teach the information properly. According to Jessica Park, a lot of the portable classrooms do not have internet access or even projectors. This creates obvious learning problems for the students who have the unfortunate luck of being placed in those portables. Another problem created by moving the classrooms down to the portables is longer walks for students who have classes there.

For student Orlando Wiggins, it is even more of an issue because of his knee. “I’ve got a bum knee, I’m handicapped, so it affects me physically.” He said that he had to walk a lot further to get to his classrooms, which caused more pain in his knee.

According to construction workers at College of Marin, the teachers and administration have been extremely nice and accommodating, however, students have more of an indifferent attitude towards construction workers. A common problem for the workers has been moving trucks, and heavy equipment through the campus while classes are being held. One worker stated that students generally do not care if a large truck is heading right towards them, and tend to not move out of the way of the workers and their equipment.

Although there are many problems that coincide with construction, many students, teachers, and neighbors are excited that the planned construction is nearly finished.  Wiggins also stated that, although it is a minor inconvenience to have to walk further, he is all for renovation of the older campus buildings.

He said, “I’m totally for upgrading and renovating… I think they should let the public know what is being built.” Common to other students, Wiggins believes that if students were more informed about what construction work is being done, then there would be a more positive outlook on construction at College of Marin.

Jessica Park agrees, “I was coming from an inferior building… overall I was extremely happy to move into the new building.” In general the consensus seems to be that construction is a hassle, but the long term results are well worth the trouble. At the beginning of the semester a meeting is held to inform teachers, and faculty about what is going on during the semester. The meeting is called Convocation, and this year teachers and faculty were informed about the state of the current construction. The students of College of Marin, however, are less tuned-in to the state-of-affairs of the college.

As Wiggins said, “I’m sure they’ve probably had board meetings about it, but a lot of times students don’t go.” Jessica Park also said that making the information about the state of construction more available would help to alleviate students stress and complaints about the construction.

For the surrounding community, construction seems to be never ending, however, construction of the new academic center is reportedly on schedule.

According to Nicole Cruz, assistant communications official at College of Marin, “The demolition phase of the new academic center was completed on schedule,” and building of the new academic center is scheduled to start at the end of August.

The planned construction is supposed to end in December of 2014, and will wrap up the then ten year long project known as Measure C Modernization. As long as the planned schedule is followed, students can expect “COMstruction” at the Kentfield campus to be finished by the 2015 spring semester.


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