Kirkwood Community College breaks ground on new Regional Center


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Construction crews and Coralville city officials broke ground this weekend for a new facility intended for expanded community student use.

At 4 p.m. Oct. 11, community members gathered at what is now a lot located in the University of Iowa Research Park, 2301 Oakdale Blvd., for the ceremony that marked the beginning to the construction of the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa.

The project — a partnership among the UI, Kirkwood Community College, and the Grant Wood Area Educational Agency — will have cost $26 million when its doors open in 2015.

A bond issue passed two years ago was the primary funding source for the new center.

The goal of the facility is to stimulate interest in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math areas.

The partnership will provide connections with area employers, offer college credit, and encourage students to pursue a college degree.

Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett, among the long line of speakers at the event, said he is thrilled about the benefits the facility will bring to the greater Iowa City area.

“It’s just a tremendous opportunity for our community to do this,” he said. “It’s a chance [to provide] education for the youth.”

Fausett also said he foresees further development occurring in the surrounding areas because the project’s large bearings.

“There will be vendors that are selling to the schools,” he said. “I would anticipate that this will help economic development.”

The new six-story facility will include a large glass viewing area, green technologies for efficiency, and natural lighting.

While summer programs at the center will be offered for kindergarten through high school, college-credit courses are intended for high-school students, specifically juniors and seniors.

“If I were a high-school student, and I could come out here for part of my day, I’d do it,” said Jon Weih, the director of student services and student life at the Kirkwood Iowa City Campus.

The opening of the Coralville location, which was originally set to open in the fall of 2014 prior to planning problems and building logistics will serve as a precursor for future centers.

In addition to this facility, Kirkwood will open regional centers in Jones and Linn Counties. One is also scheduled to open in Washington County in the fall of 2014.

UI and Kirkwood STEM programs such as career academies, liberal arts, and other classes, will be among the academic offerings.

Once open, current K-12 teachers will be given training opportunities from the Grant Wood Educational Agency and the UI.

The partnership is like no other in the nation, Kirkwood officials said.

Joe Crozier, chief administrator of the Grant Wood agency, said he is proud of the role it will play.

“On this campus, Grant Wood will house over 100 professional staff members,” he said. “The opportunity to provide professional development training for area teachers and staff will be advantageous.”

The learning center can be utilized by Iowa City, Regina, Clear Creek, Solon, Tipton, and West Branch School Districts.

Iowa City School District Superintendent Steve Murley spoke on behalf of the district at the ceremony.

“Students are truly going to benefit from the programs that are created inside this facility and offered to our students,” he said. “These are programs that we currently can’t offer in our facilities, but they’re programs that we know students need to succeed.”

Weih said the reason Coralville was chosen as the location over Iowa City was simply because of land availability. When the UI became involved with the partnership, it donated the land.

“We think it is a great place to be on this part of town,” Weih said. “There is a lot of growth out in this area.”

He said the UI was excited from the start to be a part of the partnership, which UI President Sally Mason confirmed in her address.

“It is a proud moment,” she said. “The partnership that we are embarking on here is a unique, but very necessary educational undertaking that will benefit teachers, students, our communities, and our state for decades to come.”

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