TCC shows off new campus

Published 11:21 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Today, the halls are filled with the sounds of last-minute construction work, with the harried activity of people hurrying back and forth and putting the finishing touches on a long-awaited project.

There is lab equipment to be installed, furniture to be delivered and touch-up work to be done on painted walls and trim.

But the work is near completion, and by the middle of January, the sounds in the new buildings at Tidewater Community College’s new campus in Portsmouth will be the sounds of teaching and learning.

And that’s got college administrators pretty excited, a fact they shared during a media tour on Monday.

“We’re trying to excite you as much as we are excited about this new campus,” TCC President Deborah M. DiCroce said as she stood in the atrium of the school’s new student services building, one of three educational structures on the 35-acre property adjacent to the Victory Village business park in Portsmouth.

The campus will be called the Fred W. Beazley Portsmouth Campus in honor of the man whose foundation made the original gift that helped build the college’s original Portsmouth campus, located at the end of what is now College Drive in North Suffolk.

At the time, the facility was named the Portsmouth Campus, because the foundation was located in Portsmouth, according to Terry Jones, provost.

When the new campus opens for classes in January, it finally will be in the center of the city it was intended to serve most directly, DiCroce said.

“Community colleges function best when they are right smack in the middle” of the cities they serve, she explained. “Yet our Portsmouth campus … sits in surprising Suffolk.”

Even after the move, Suffolk residents still have a Paul D. Camp Community College campus on Kenyon Road, she said, and TCC should still have some influence here.

“We’d like to maintain a presence in Suffolk,” she added, noting that college officials have been working with Suffolk’s city administration to find ways to meet that goal.

In the meantime, she and other TCC officials are ebullient about the new facility.

The new Portsmouth campus, she said, will serve more than 10,000 students each year when it opens, with a capacity for 16,500 when the campus is fully built out.

The three buildings opening in January encompass 183,000 square feet, with a build-out size of about 350,000 square feet. The area opening in January will house 25 classrooms, 11 instructional computer labs, 20 instructional labs for disciplines such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, welding and HVAC, four state-of-the-art human-patient simulator labs for nursing and 1,000 computers.

The $65-million project includes $11.5 million in state funding for equipment and furnishings. The Beazley Foundation helped out once again, donating $1.4 million to establish and provide equipment for the Beazley School of Nursing.

That contribution should help the Portsmouth Campus’ nursing program become what DiCroce referred to as a “benchmark program” that other school across the nation will try to emulate.

The new nursing program will utilize highly advanced patient simulators that can be programmed to have an incredible variety of lifelike reactions to various types of treatment, she said, noting that Eastern Virginia Medical School has expressed an interest in having its own students complete some training on the advanced mannequins.

But space and modernization are perhaps the two things that will strike students hardest when they show up for classes in January.

With new equipment, furniture and everything right down to the paint, the new facility couldn’t be a starker contrast to the old one in Suffolk, which hasn’t seen any major renovations in decades.

And the extra space available means that the college will be able to triple the number of its science labs, double its capacity for nursing students, double its ability to train HVAC students and triple the capacity of its welding program, DiCroce said.

College officials plan a series of open houses for students and the public during the next few weeks, after all of the equipment and furniture has been delivered and installed.

Public open houses are set for December 29 and 30 and January 4. Classes will start Jan. 11.