"We did this in nine weeks"
But, on Thursday, the college held its grand opening to showcase the new classrooms, laboratories, lobbies and faculty offices for a couple of hundred members of the community and college. "We did this in nine weeks from the time we started to the time we opened it," Acting President James Beckwith said. "We couldn't have done this without a lot of help from a lot of people."
The college saw the opportunity to lease the property from mill owner and former SVC Trustee Jon Goodrich as a way to centralize the health care programs and help solve space issues. SVC's enrollment has about doubled over the past six years. The nursing program used to be divided between space on campus, at the Bennington Center for the Arts and North Adams Regional Hospital in North Adams, Mass., where it used laboratory space.
Now, the third floor of the mill includes eight offices for nursing faculty as well as two large classrooms built to accommodate 80 students. On the fourth floor is a computer lab, a simulation lab, and a fundamentals lab for nursing students, as well as an office and classroom for the radiologic technology program.
"For the first time in the history of the institution we've been able to combine faculty and administrative offices, classrooms, the skill lab, the sim lab and (by the end of the year the) Xray lab will be up and running," Beckwith said. The space looks new with modern fixtures, although it maintains and incorporates the historic brick and wooden beams from the building, which dates back to the 1880s when it was the Holden-Leonard Co.
The students who attended the opening raved about the new space they will work in. "It looks really good," radiologic sciences manger Eric Burnham said.
Burnham, a junior who lives on campus, said the commute is easy, being just five minutes from campus. There is also a shuttle to and from classes that students are able to take advantage of.
Kelsey Rogers, another junior in the radiologic science department, commutes from off campus and said the mill property is actually more convenient for commuters because there is more parking than at the Everett Mansion on campus. Rogers also said the new site is ideal because it puts students who all major in the same field together. "I think it's just a really good opportunity for SVC," she said.
Goodrich said at the opening he believes the agreement with the college benefits all parties, including the town.
"I'm committed to developing the college atmosphere downtown, and for all of Bennington," Goodrich said. "I think that Bennington needs more downtown ... and it's always been my hope when I bought this building to do more for downtown, to bring downtown back to the people."
Beckwith said downtown Bennington was also on the college's mind when it agreed to lease the property.
"What we've got here now is SVC's commitment to health care, commitment to the workforce, but also commitment to downtown Bennington. We are a partner to downtown Bennington and we love that scenario," he said.
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