Construction on six new classrooms at White Bear Lake's Century College will begin this fall, and school officials hope it's the first of many such building projects that will help alleviate overcrowding.
Roughly 15,000 students are expected to show up when classes at the state's largest two-year college begin Monday, and empty seats will be hard to find. According to school officials, more than 95 percent of all available seats in classes campuswide will be occupied, and in many cases enrollment is at the max.
"That is not the best learning environment," said Mike Bruner, Century's vice president of student services and college facilities. "Having a little more space in the room will be beneficial for students."
Bruner admits that the addition of the six classrooms on the East Campus will make only a small dent in the college's space problem, but it could be a harbinger of things to come. The school at 3300 Century Av. N. wants to build 20 more classrooms on the West Campus in 2014 if it is successful in obtaining money from the state.
The 2012 bonding bill passed by the Legislature included $5 million that Century will use to enclose a pedestrian bridge that connects the Science Center and Library with the original East Campus Building and fill in the space with six classrooms.
Along with providing an additional 8,000 square feet of academic space, the new rooms will be designed with the latest and future technology in mind. While classrooms in the older parts of the college can be retrofitted to accommodate such features as video conferencing, the new learning spaces will be wired to accommodate a variety of new technology, Bruner said.
While many of Century's technical- and skill-oriented courses are held on the east side of Century Avenue, the new classrooms will be used for any course offered at the college and for new programs that need a home, said Pat Opatz, vice president for finance administration.
Four of the rooms will have about 32 seats, and two of the rooms will have up to 50 seats. They could be ready by the start of the 2013-14 school year.
As part of the expansion, the school also will remodel the third floor of the East Campus building, where it will consolidate its dental hygienist and dental assistance programs. Classrooms and offices will be added, and a lab to allow students to practice on campus will be installed. That project will begin next summer and be done before the 2013-14 academic year.
Construction on the 45-year-old campus -- which straddles Century Avenue, with part in White Bear Lake and part in Mahtomedi -- is becoming commonplace. In 2008, the school opened its science center on the East Campus. From 2009 to 2011, the West Campus building underwent a $9 million makeover.
Tim Harlow 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib