By Ian Ross
A flurry of renovation activity is taking place at Sault College this spring as the institution embarks on its largest renovation project in its 37-year existence.
The establishment of an Ontario Provincial Police training facility on campus has kick-started a whole series of major physical changes that will unfold in the next many months prior to classes resuming in September.
With $4.2 million in provincial funding from SuperBuild, renewal funds and modernization funds, the renovations provide some much-needed classroom space and technological upgrades creating a better learning environment and showcasing some of the college’s more popular and fastest growing programs, says Rick McGee, the college’s director of public and corporate affairs.
There will be no changes in the overall square footage on campus, says McGee, but reshuffling of some classroom and learning labs will make better use of the space available.
Since the college opened in 1965, various wings have been added over the years with new programming being stuffed wherever space was available.
“We’ve modified and revamped existing space, but we’ve never done a modernization and renovation project on this scale,” says McGee. “This is by far the largest.”
Rooms will be reconfigured and new faculties relocated in the health science fields, computer studies and in the aviation technology faculty to house its two newest state-of-the-art flight simulators.
Some of the designs for health sciences, for instance, include hospital nurse stations, in-patient bedrooms, intensive care unit suites, and emergency exam and trauma stations.
Part of the provincial allocation was used to hire Educational Consulting Services Corp. who developed the new facilities master plan which was approved last May and led to the hiring of the Sault’s Ellis Pastore Oswin Consultants Inc. as architects for the SuperBuild work.
One of the design signatures by the architects incorporates glazed walls and windows for a transparent look for the college’s popular aviation, computer studies and health sciences programs to allow people in the hallways and prospective students to see right into the academic environments.
The changes further provide more “wired” general classrooms for computer training and “distributive learning,” with new technologies added for distance education and other online learning possibilities that did not exist more than 30 years ago, says McGee.
“It’s really exciting to us because there’s a lot going to be happening between now and the fall,” as renovation activity picks up between May and September, McGee adds.
Setting aside some dedicated space for the OPP’s Northeast Region Criminal Justice and Protection Centre was warranted in order to improve training procedures for officers and their civilian administration staff.
Over the years, the college has maintained a number of officer patrol training courses, which are described by the OPP as in-service training or basically professional development for constables.
The new learning environment should serve to tighten the relationship between the college and the police service, he says, but also offers some cross-training opportunities which should strengthen Sault College’s programs in police foundation or law and security administration.
“It adds an experiential component and (provides) closer ties with the OPP (which will) attract students to our program,” McGee says. “Not many colleges offer onsite collaboration with the OPP.”
Students in the criminal justice programs have often participated in staging training scenarios over the years.
By formalizing this relationship, McGee believes it should open doors for law and security administration students to start working more closely with officers and observing their training.
“They could be involved in a number of simulated training exercises as participants,” says McGee, and have access to their facilities and training resources.
The OPP’s own trainers will deliver the course material, “but we’re hoping at some point to become involved in the training,” McGee says. “Our faculty have strong policing backgrounds.”
Other future planned capital works projects include the college’s pursuit of a further $4 million in federal and provincial money for major campus modifications, including a front entrance facelift to establish a pavilion centralizing common student services such as the registrar’s office and financial aid.