HCC's plan to turn a 22,000-square-foot photography studio into a state-of-the-art health science building took a giant leap forward last week after the state legislature passed a bill to allow the college to borrow $7 million for the project.
The plan calls for the purchase and renovation of Grynn & Barrett Studios on nearby Jarvis Avenue and the relocation to that site of HCC's nursing and radiologic technology programs, which are now housed in the school's Marieb building.
"We're falling over each other in here and can't wait to get out," said Kathleen Hankel, dean of Health and Natural Sciences.
The move will allow HCC's popular RN (registered nursing) and PN (practical nursing) programs to take more students, said Hankel. Right now, HCC is limited to accepting 70 new nursing students each fall, she said, whereas the college receives between 300 and 400 applicants a year. There are currently 44 students in HCC's radiologic technology program.
The second floor of the Grynn & Barrett building will require little renovation, Hankel said, and be used mostly for office and conference space. Thirteen full-time faculty and four full-time professional staff workers will move from Marieb to the Jarvis Avenue building once the work is done.
"If we get in by the fall of 2013, that would be ambitious," Hankel said.
The first floor of the new building will get a complete overhaul, with renovations to include both high-tech and low-tech nursing simulation labs and dedicated classrooms for both nursing and radiologic technology designed for interactive activities. Radiology will also have a lab with state-of-the-art equipment and Holyoke Medical Center will work with the program to provide remote imaging access for students.
"We're trying to provide state of the art technology for students because that's the way of the world," said Hankel. "That's what they're going to see in clinical practice."
Increased community outreach will also be a big part of the expanded nursing program. The 404 Jarvis Ave. building is on the same stretch of road as the Sullivan Elementary School, Loomis House Nursing Center and Beaudoin Village, an apartment complex managed by the Holyoke Housing Authority.
"We want to put together some projects that will benefit them and HCC," said Hankel. "We'll do pediatric clinics, well-child assessments and teaching projects, geriatric assessments--anything they might need. It's a win-win for them and our students. You can't have a better clinical experience than that--learning about it and then doing it."
Moving the nursing and radiologic technology programs will open up much-needed space on campus for other science programs, particularly biology. Part of the $7 million loan will also pay for the renovation of parts of the Marieb building, Hankel said. Ideally, she said, she'd like to see the construction of two additional science labs and the renovation of existing ones and more dedicated biology lecture space.
"Our science courses are operating at capacity," she said. "We have people who want to get into our science courses, but rather than wait, they go elsewhere. If we could renovate classrooms and take space for biology, they would come here and we could fulfill their needs."
Photos: (Left) The Grynn & Barrett building at 404 Jarvis Ave. and future home of HCC's nursing and radiologic technology programs. (Right) Nursing students practice in HCC's simulation lab.