A big milestone this week at Anoka-Ramsey Community College for a project that's been more than a decade in the making.
Work is officially underway on a major renovation project involving the college's business and nursing programs. College officials and other local dignitaries helped break ground Wednesday on a construction project that will revamp space for the ARCC business and nursing programs.
"Nursing education today is active learning, it's hands on, it's simulation of which we had nothing for simulation," said Sandra Kohler, Dean of Nursing at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. "Over the last 15 years that I've been here and especially over the last 5 years, we have to piecemeal together simulation rooms."
In all, more than 34,000 square feet of space will be renovated over the next 15 months. The project includes five, state-of-the-art flexible classrooms for active learning.
"This new building will spread out classrooms with flat tables, no more tiered auditoriums, lots of active learning, the ability for the faculty to move around the classroom instead of just standing as a sage on the stage," Kohler said.
But getting to the point of construction hasn't been easy. State officials toured the campus several times to get a first hand look at conditions, most recently in January of 2020. It was that year the project finally secured more than $16 million in construction funding thanks to the help of local legislators.
"You know, I grew up a mile down the road from where we are right now and I actually live even closer now so Anoka-Ramsey has been part of my community and part of my backyard my whole life," said State Representative Zack Stephenson. "I'm just thrilled to see this happen to such a valuable institution for our community."
The project is now on the fast track. Abatement proceedings started last week. Next week, tear down begins inside the building.
"The plan is that in late July, a year and a couple months from now, the building should be complete and we should be ready to move back in the start of August 2022," said Kohler.
The new space could allow the nursing program to grow. Currently, Anoka-Ramsey enrolls 80 new students each semester but gets hundreds of applications. It takes five semesters to get a nursing degree. School officials say more than 90% of graduates are employed in their field of choice six months after graduation.
For more information, check out the Anoka-Ramsey Community College website.