Kirkwood breaks groundWashington facility to open August 2014
As Jim and Margaret Dunn watched a ceremony Monday to mark the official groundbreaking on the $9 million Washington County Regional Center of Kirkwood Community College, Jim Dunn thought to himself how proud he is that he is part of what could be one of the most beneficial things in Washington County.
The Dunn family donated the eight-acre plot along Lexington Boulevard that will be used to build the 39,000 square foot facility. Thinking to the future, Dunn said that he owns some of the surrounding land if the college ever decides to expand. He had purchased the farm property as an investment about 20 years ago. While ground was actually broken in late April, Kirkwood Washington director Tera Pickens said that due to the rainy weather, the official groundbreaking was delayed.
“I feel very comfortable with everything that is happening,” Jim Dunn said. “We have had a lot of compliments from all the parties involved here. I served on the (Kirkwood Foundation) Board for about 14 years and I know they are going to do what they say they are going to do. I feel proud to be a part of it.”
During a speech, Kirkwood President Mick Starcevich referred to the Dunns as “models of generous and forward-thinking citizens.” He said all the people in the area working together is what makes the event special.
Pickens said the facility is expected to be open for classes in August 2014.
“There has been a lot of great interest in the community,” Pickens said. “I think people are seeing some dirt moving and are wondering what is going on and they are getting excited about the building that is going up here.”
She said that she is feeling the overall excitement for the possibilities and the opportunities the facility will offer local school districts and community members. When complete, the facility will house many traditional classrooms and state-of-the-art laboratories to provide students with hands-on and advanced technical instruction. Some of the programs will include architecture/construction, automotive technology, computer networking, criminal justice and patient care.
Many members of local school districts attended the event, as did many representatives of economic development organizations. As she gave her speech to the group, Kirkwood Board of Trustees member Karen Gorham described education in the 1800s, when the community may have gathered on a hilltop — as the group stood Monday — to build a one-room schoolhouse. Today the group gathered for the new educational facility.
“I can’t promise you anything about this century except that this center is going to be a ‘wow’,” she said. “When people come down that part of the highway or when those yellow school buses start coming in, you are going to say, ‘Wow, this is really great.’”
Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen also spoke of the importance of students getting a head start on a college education. He said that during his employment interview with the school board, he had spoken of his desire to work with area school districts, including the local community colleges. One goal he said he has is a program that will allow students to earn an associate’s degree while still in high school.
“This is going to be an outstanding opportunity for our students,” he said. “Studies say that if a kid earns some college credit in high school, they are five times more likely to finish college. That is huge.”
The first regional center built by Kirkwood was the Jones County Regional Center in Monticello. Two other regional centers are in the process of being built.