Sunday, September 17, 2006
Construction costs stifle A&T’s plans
Administrators at N.C. A&T were planning on building a 65,000-square-foot, $19.2 million building for its School of Education.
Then they got the bid prices back.
The rising cost of construction materials took a bite out of the budget for the project, forcing the university to shave 7,000 square feet from the design.
Even with the alternative choice — which removed 15 offices, a computer lab and some classroom space — officials had to come up with an additional $1.4 million to pay for the structure.
The modifications are a point of concern for administrators in the school and come at a time when the UNC system has made teacher education a priority system-wide.
A&T’s board of trustees’ buildings and grounds subcommittee discussed the changes at a meeting Friday morning. The full board of trustees will consider the matter at its meeting Wednesday.
Willie T. Ellis Jr., A&T’s vice chancellor for business and finance, said the university’s commitment of $20.6 million to the project is evidence of the university’s dedication to teacher education.
If the money was available, the school would have it, Ellis said.
"We could not identify an additional $3 million to support the original design of that building," he said. "Based on the resources available at this point in time, this is the best we can do."
The dean of the School of Education said the building, as originally planned, was designed with the growth of the school in mind.
"To cut the facility designed for growth, when a major initiative is to provide more teachers, is very discouraging for my faculty," said Lelia Vickers, the dean.
Vickers said everyone at the meeting had a clear commitment to teacher education and her job was to advocate for the best facilities possible for her students.
"When we look at all the reports out there from around the world that say we’re being challenged in competing, one of the areas we have to improve if anything is education. Where you start with that is training highly qualified educators to go out to the schools," she said.
Other administrators at the school said students already felt that they didn’t have equal facilities compared to other spaces around campus.
"We feel our students should have an equal environment on campus," said Dorothy Leflore, a member of the school’s faculty.
The School of Education, which has about 1,000 graduate and undergraduate students, is based in 52-year-old Hodgin Hall; additional offices are in Corbett Gym and the Fort Building.
In addition to the new building — which is named after former Chancellor James Renick — the school is also in line to get additional space in the Yanceyville Center, a facility being renovated on Yanceyville Street.
A&T started work on the Renick building about two weeks ago and the project is scheduled to be finished in December 2007.
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