By itself a complete renovation of Northwest Community College’s House of Cedar trades building is a massive project.
But equally as complicated and comprehensive is how courses and students will be affected once the $18.5 million project gets underway beginning this fall.
Students and college employees took a look at various options on Jan. 13 when college officials unveiled a lengthy series of possibilities.
Roughly 40 students and staff gathered over lunch to view two main options about how to move classrooms and labs and where to put the computer labs, café and bookstore which are located within the trades building.
The most controversial idea was an option to downsize the library, which is in the basement of the college’s main classroom and services building.
The option suggested they cut the library in half in order to open space for a health sciences classroom.
College officials have already had the library thin out its collections in preparation for a conversion of the space.
But students at the Jan. 13 session expressed strong disapproval, repeating several times that the library’s holdings and study space are vital to their education.
“We need that study space. The library is packed during exams,” one student said.
“The fact that it’s an option makes us feel like we haven’t been heard,” said another.
Students have been fighting the idea of downsizing the library since the idea first came out, and several started a Facebook page called “Save the Terrace College Library” to rally people and keep them informed.
College director of facilities Kerry Clarke said the college has heard student opinions and concerns surrounding the library area.
Plans have changed since then, he said.
The second option was to move the bookstore from trades building into the library’s seating area at the western end of the building. That option would not require the library to be downsized and could maintain the current collection of books and study space.
A few students were also concerned about plans involving the college longhouse, where they plan to move the students’ union office from its current location in the cafeteria building. One option also suggested moving the IT department to the longhouse.
Some students said it contradicts what college president Ken Burt announced Nov. 22 last year, saying the longhouse would “remain available for cultural and student-centred programming during the renovation of the trades building and into the future.”
But Clarke said that the student union fits the bill as a student-centred program, and it would benefit the union by having the longhouse kitchen available to them.
He added that the idea actually came from students themselves.
It came forward at an earlier session last November, where 96 students came and illustrated their ideas for the transition plans using diagrams and gaming pieces.
“The student union going into the longhouse was suggested by three of the groups,” Clarke said. “Two individual tables made that suggestion.”
Students also suggested they move the café, which is by the bookstore in the trades building, over to the cafeteria, and extend the open hours of the cafeteria so that students could study there and have computers available there.
That idea was part of the plans as well.
As for the classes, the college plans to move the trades electrical program to the former Thornhill Junior School, now the Northwest Trades Centre owned by the Coast Mountains School District.
For the nursing labs, one of the options suggested moving it to what is now the IT department space, and then moving IT to the longhouse.
The other option didn’t mention the nursing lab, and nursing students did raise concerns saying that their labs were already too full, and they would need at least two labs for the program.
Brent Speidel, who led the Jan. 13 session and who is operating as a consultant for the renovation plans, said that much of the movement into the building could be very temporary and fluid.
He explained that the college might move a lab or classroom to a new area for three weeks while a space is renovated, and then move it back in for the rest of the year.
At the same time, some of the moves which are being contemplated are being considered as long-term changes to remain after the renovations are completed, Clarke said.
For example, he hopes that the students’ union move to the longhouse will stick.
“There is no set end-time,” Clarke said. “If it works for them to be there, and they like being there, why wouldn’t we keep it there?”
With the Jan. 13 consultation being the final one, Clarke said he is taking the input and finalizing a plan to present to the college board.
They will be presented to the board at a special meeting, which they are hoping to arrange in February. There the board will decide on the final plan.
After that there will be some preliminary work, such as electrical preparation, but the real renovation work won’t begin until next fall.
The renovation of the trades building, one of the original structures at the Terrace campus, has been long sought by the college because of the inadequacy of its space to meet current trades training standard. The majority of the renovation work is being paid by the provincial government at $11.87 million, and the federal government is covering $6.31 million.
Below is an outline of the two options being considered. Arrows highlight the points that are different in the two options. The other points are the same in both options.