It was a hard-hat tour without hard hats, but representatives from Columbus State Community College were pleased with what they saw last week at what will be a regional learning center for the college at Reynoldsburg High School's BELL Academy, 6699 E. Livingston Ave.
David Wayne, media relations coordinator for Columbus State, said the college paid $1 million to renovate 22,000 square feet of classroom and laboratory space for the learning center, while the district paid $1.6 million.
The space includes six "smart" classrooms equipped with DVD and Internet access, specialized software, LCD projectors and projector screens; two science laboratories, one patient-care classroom for medical and health profession classes; a library with writing and tutoring areas and an administrative and student affairs area with a break room and conference room.
Wayne said Columbus State will close its learning center in Groveport at the end of this month.
"The opening of the new learning center will save the college $150,000 annually in rent and utilities," he said.
Under the agreement with the district, Columbus State will operate the learning center within BELL Academy rent-free with no utility costs, in return for offering college classes for Reynoldsburg High School students at a reduced rate of $25 per credit hour.
Other students enrolling at the new learning center will pay $122 per credit hour.
Classes begin in the center on Jan. 14 for general public college students. Reynoldsburg BELL Academy students may begin taking college courses in the center in the spring.
Next fall, all dual-enrollment students attending Reynoldsburg high schools may begin taking classes at the new learning center, Wayne said.
Susan Norris Berry, administrator for the learning center, and Erica Dodson, principal of BELL Academy, conducted the Nov. 29 tour.
Among those on hand were Reynoldsburg Superintendent Steve Dackin, Ohio Department of Education Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers, Columbus State President David Harrison and Jim Petro, chancellor for the Ohio Board of Regents.
"This represents a new era for Reynoldsburg schools, in which we look beyond our own community and beyond our old ways of doing things to offer more educational opportunities for children at less cost to taxpayers," Dackin said.
BELL Academy junior Kelly Alianiello, who took the tour, is also a Columbus State student.
"This offers students the next step to college and makes the cost more reasonable to go to college," she said.
Columbus State classes that begin in January at the learning center for the general public include biology, chemistry, communication, criminal justice, computer fundamentals, economics, English, history, mathematics, nurse aid training, patient care skills, philosophy, psychology, sociology, real estate, Spanish and statistics.