Space: next frontier for crowded classes

Emylee Lucas/The Et Cetera
By JAMES HARTLEY
@JamesHartleyETC

A plan for campus renovations, more space, equipment and a possible new building is in the works as a part of Eastfield’s master plan.

Repairs are also needed to address flooding in aging buildings, and the art department needs a new ventilation system for safety reasons in the art studios, according to Iris Bechtol, director of Eastfield’s art galleries.

Jonathan Rollins, the architect working on a master plan to determine the direction the college takes regarding infrastructure, said C building needs major renovations. Rollins also said the college should consider adding a new building for additional classroom space.

Rollins said C building has outlived its academic life and needs major updates to its equipment and aesthetics to remain competitive with more modern colleges.

Adrian Douglas, vice president of business services, said the master plan is expected to take three to five years to come to total fruition.

Amy Vance, dean of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Division, said space is her division’s greatest need. Limited space holds back STEM’s ability to expand, she said.

“Our classes are growing,” Vance said. “We’re adding more sections of courses, which means that our lab space is maxing out. Our biology classes, for example … for majors, specifically, that lab is used from 6:30 in the morning until 10 at night.”

Renovations paid for by the Hispanic Serving Institute STEM grant awarded to the college last semester will both help and hurt the space issue, Vance said.

The grant paid for various necessities on campus, including new labs converted from existing classrooms in an effort to alleviate some of the overcrowding in labs, Vance said.

“In doing that, we’re now giving up two classrooms that our math classes or science classes can no longer use because now they are labs,” Vance said. “It’s a give and take.”

Vance said this would cause a ripple effect when scheduling new classes.

“If two classrooms are no longer being used as classrooms, those classes have to go somewhere,” Vance said. “Where are we going to put them at those peak times of day? Thankfully, we have a wonderful person that handles rooms that can do the ‘Tetris’ and figure that out.”

Ultimately, Vance said a new science building with new labs, classes, storage areas and faculty offices is needed.

Classes are spread across campus, and it is not practical for students, lab workers and professors to be “trekking all over the place,” Vance said.

Vance also wants locker rooms and showers for both home and visiting teams at the baseball and soccer fields, a new weight room and visiting team locker rooms at the gym.

Courtney Carter Harbour, dean of Arts and Communications, said that while space isn’t a major concern for her division, they need new equipment and repairs.

Leaks add to the problems for Arts and Communication, Harbour said. Douglas said the leaks are a part of the maintenance funding requests she is making.

Facilities Director Michael Brantley said funding requests for all maintenance from 2017 to 2018 totals about $35 million.

The Performance Hall, the library, some computer labs, some music rooms, the H Gallery, hallways and some classrooms are also susceptible to leaks during rain.

Trash cans marked as water receptacles are spread throughout the F building.

The tops of some bookshelves in the library have water stains, and the ceiling shows signs of leaks as well. There are no immediate signs of damage to the books.

The leaks in the Performance Hall have created a need for structural repairs and have left some equipment damaged or destroyed. Leaks in the music rooms have damaged pianos.

“I think that the college has tried to do the best that it can with the money that it has to try to maintain these spaces,” Harbour said. “However, I think we’ve gotten to a point where we really need to see some substantial changes. Otherwise, we may end up spending more money in terms of trying just to maintain these areas when, realistically, money might be better spent if some of these areas where there are safety concerns, we completely renovate.”

Harbour said she wouldn’t be surprised if the money already spent on repairs and replaced equipment in the Performance Hall was enough to build a new building.

Lori Honeycutt, technical theater coordinator, agreed.

“Every time we put a Band-Aid on, it costs money,” Honeycutt said. “And the Band-Aids don’t last forever.”

Honeycutt said leaks have destroyed lights, ruined sound equipment, damaged expensive curtains and harmed the stage. Though she would love a new Performance Hall, she would prefer to repair the existing one.

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Honeycutt said the biggest loss from a new Performance Hall would be the fly tower.

“It’s that thing you see from I-30,” Honeycutt said.

The fly tower allows stage curtains to be pulled out of view and into the tower, something Honeycutt said is not common in community college theaters.

She also said renovations would likely remove the grandfather clause in fire code available to the theater, requiring expensive and time-consuming renovations. Time and money are two things they don’t have, Honeycutt said.

Eric Eley, an art professor specializing in sculptures and ceramics, said a lack of centralized systems for health and safety, like dust collection and ventilation, is his main concern.

These systems, he said, are needed to protect air quality for techniques like oil painting and some practices involving ceramics and sculpting. The darkroom for developing film also needs new ventilation for safety.
“Our sculpture and ceramics studio has the greatest need because we produce the most dust work with more, not necessarily hazardous material, although we do use some, it’s more based on particulates and air quality,” Eley said.

Eley added that areas with woodworking equipment and kilns need ventilation, but antiquated electrical systems in the F building prevent them from using their equipment, much less introducing new ventilation systems.

“Our biggest need right now, beyond the electrical service to run those systems, is dust collection and air ventilation systems for our main studio spaces, just to bring them up to what would be considered a minimum level 25 years ago,” Eley said. “We’re that far behind.”

Eley said the art department needs a new building, but since he doesn’t expect one any time soon, he is trying to work with what he has. He wrote a 10-page proposal on outfitting the studio spaces and darkroom with improved ventilation.

The art department also needs new equipment that matches “industry minimums,” Eley said.

Bechtol said one of the only up-to-date pieces of equipment in the art department is a Blaauw kiln, calling it “a Lamborghini of kilns.”

“We’re playing a game of catch-up, and it’s one we can’t win in this building,” Bechtol said.

The F building is nearly 50 years old.

Most equipment in the art department is outdated, and some is difficult to operate according to Eley.

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“If we don’t have the infrastructure to add [new equipment] in, they’re going to move on to a four-year university that does have a fully equipped studio, and they will have never seen some of these tools that are considered basic studio tools,” Eley said. “That’s my big concern in this long line of, ‘This needs to happen so this can happen so this can happen,’ so we can make sure our students are moving on to either the workforce, the art world or a four-year university and they don’t feel like they’re behind.”

Eley believes new equipment and some reorganization of rooms would allow the department to open new art classes.

He said reorganizing would cost the art department storage space, but it would be something they could work around.

Brookhaven currently has the largest art program in the district, but with updates, Eastfield can compete, Eley said.

Johnnie Bellamy, dean of Career Technologies, said her division doesn’t have any safety needs, but has space and equipment needs.

Bellamy requested a new building, and said that early college high school students joining technical programs will increase their needs.

Jeff Mitchell, chair of the welding program, is looking to expand the welding program to include an associate degree, an effort Bellamy said the division is trying to find ways to support.

“We’re looking at how we can expand without expanding,” Bellamy said. “We’re looking at how he can get more space without getting any more physical space.”

Equipment is also a need, Bellamy said.

“In a technical program, there’s always going to be a need for equipment,” Bellamy said.

Rollins said that in addition to needing more space, the campus must make aesthetic upgrades to compete with other community colleges in the area.

“Students are looking at other campuses at the same time they’re looking at Eastfield,” Rollins said. “If they walk into a campus that has a whole bunch of cool spaces where they can work and collaborate and relax, and then they come onto the Eastfield campus and there are only a couple of those spaces, it makes Eastfield potentially less appealing to them.”

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