By Max Wolf-Johnson
Another academic semester begins at College of Marin, and the school’s seemingly unending “modernization project” continues. For returning students the sight of neon-vested workers in hard hats and the sound of shrill beeping have become part of the campus’ backdrop. These minimal distractions, however, are the price to pay for the 17 state-of-the-art-classrooms that students will be able to enjoy once the new academic center finishes construction.
Additionally, once the project is completed, students will no longer need to fear registering for a class potentially taught in one of the portable bungalows. The building is scheduled to be opened for use at the start of the 2015 Summer semester, and at its current stage it is estimated to be 20 percent complete.
The Academic Center is in the eighth stage of the modernization project which includes the construction of the Math, Nursing and Science Building, and the Fine Arts buildings. The project is being funded by the Measure C Bond, which was voted on in 2004 and deducted a percentage of voter’s property taxes. Altogether the Academic Center is costing in the neighborhood of thirty-two million dollars. In addition to classrooms, the new building will house two computer labs and faculty offices.
According to COM’s Director of Modernization, Laura McCarty, English and other language classes will be a major occupier of the building.
A major part of the project that has occurred is the demolishment of the old buildings, and a process called “mass excavation.” Particular care has been taken to “weatherize” the site, which includes placing gravel, and setting up storm runoff protection.
More recently the construction company has begun laying the foundation, which includes trenching and drilling to the point of the bedrock, and pouring the concrete.
Within the past week alone, the most noticeable stage of the construction project began. Many students were surprised to see the building’s vertical frame appear seemingly overnight. However, students will likely need to wait until Spring 2015 to see the exterior fully completed.
The Academic center will cover approximately forty-three thousand square-feet and has been designed to match the architectural theme of the other newly constructed buildings on campus, while incorporating natural light.
The safety of students, as well the protection of the site, has been a major priority, which is why extensive fencing has been erected, spanning from one end of the library all the way to the Fine Arts Building. However, as a result it has become difficult to access the Fine Arts Building from the direction of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
Additional inconveniences that have arisen from the construction include the noise of drilling, which some students have found distracting during class, as well as the difficulty of moving between classes.
Student Javier Morales says that this commute is particularly exasperating because his schedule requires him “to move between such classes several times in one day.”
In general, students feel that campus modernization has been long overdue. When asked about her experience taking classes in some of the old buildings and portable classrooms, COM student Izzy Ditto remarked, “There’s not as much technology and it’s not a comfortable environment.” She also stated, “There’s more light in the newer buildings.”
First semester student Miguel Perez shared a similar sentiment, commenting that with the new buildings COM is “more welcoming than other junior colleges, it seems like you’ll receive more help and they have more resources to offer.”
In the end, College of Marin’s modernized campus will serve as a distinguishing characteristic and hopefully draw more potential students. While many may feel that an end to the constant construction cannot come soon enough, it still seems clear to most that the campus improvements are strongly in the interest of both the college and its students.
There are currently no further plans for major construction once the Academic Center is completed, but McCarty mentioned that additional renovations have been proposed to make the campus handicap-accessible and that such plans for Fusselman Hall have already been funded. However, this also means that for the immediate future, students will need to endure some of the college’s older building that will not be receiving a remodel, such as the Austin Science Center and the Library.