The Oak Leaf

STEM departments to get new home

Courtesy of SRJC.

Courtesy of SRJC.

Kevin Johnson, Deputy News Editor

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Plans are underway to replace Santa Rosa Junior College’s Shuhaw and Bech Halls with a three-story science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building, according to the Board of Trustees.

Under the plan, new classrooms and offices will support programs in the physics, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and applied technology departments and modern laboratory space will replace the current facilities, which pose a number of ventilation issues.

The project, expected to be completed in 2022, includes the construction of temporary classrooms to act as a “swing space” on the north side of Elliot Avenue. The swing space will accommodate math and science students during the demolition of Shuhaw Hall and the new building’s construction.

Lark Hall will undergo modifications to act as a swing space as well.

The building is expected to have a brick exterior consistent with the architectural style of SRJC’s Mendocino Avenue campus. Bech Hall will be demolished after the STEM building is completed.

Construction of the new swing space will likely begin in Fall 2018, according to project manager Heather Chieric, whose firm Wright Contracting/TLCD/Meehleis won the $22 million bid to begin the design phase.

“We’re starting the design phase since we have board approval,” Chierici said. “Completion would look something like May or June 2019.”

The college submitted an application for funding of a STEM building over eight years ago and after voters approved Measure H in 2014 and Proposition 51 in 2016, the state legislature included funding for the building in the 2017-18 fiscal budget.

The building will be able to accommodate an expected 10-percent increase in STEM enrollments despite decreased enrollment overall and in programs like business and language arts, over the past four years.

Shuhaw Hall was constructed in 1955 and Bech Hall was constructed in 1964.

According to SRJC capital projects manager Leigh Sata, a replacement building for Shuhaw and Bech Halls is necessary.

“Both buildings are beyond their useful lives and cannot easily be maintained any longer,” Sata said.

Dean Gooch, a mathematics instructor who teaches in Shuhaw Hall and has a office in the building, said the air conditioning system has deteriorated in recent years. Faulty lights and leaky roof panels have also posed a problem.

“The AC doesn’t even work anymore,” Gooch said. “There are individual units in each classroom as of two years ago, but when they’re in use students can’t hear lectures.”

Gooch, who has taught full time at SRJC since 1994, said he doesn’t care much about his work environment until it starts to affect his students’ ability to learn. “I care about what my students have to put up with.”

Gooch hopes that the replacement building will provide students with a better learning experience. “Hopefully our students have better access to us and there is a more integrated tutorial service.”

Mathematics and computer science major Lawson Wei said the replacement of Shuhaw Hall is long overdue. “Shuhaw feels super outdated,” said Wei. “I spend the majority of my day there and I feel having a more modern classroom with bigger desks and white boards like those on the Petaluma Campus would be so much better.”

According to Chemistry department chair Galen George new physical science labs would be a welcomed sight for the chemistry and physics departments that Bech Hall houses. Currently, Bech Hall has no public restrooms and no windows.

“The new building will enable us to grow our programs, provided we are able to hire more full-time faculty,” George said. “Additionally, the overall morale of faculty and staff will very likely improve, given what should be much better working conditions.”

Professor George also raised concerns about the building’s A/C system.

“During heat waves the lack of air conditioning is a serious safety issue,” George said.

 

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