Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
The common joke, made by Clayton State University officials outside the school's Business and Health Sciences Building on Friday afternoon, was that the university community decided it could not wait on its leaders for the beginning of construction on a new classroom annex.
The university held a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday for the 18,000-square-foot, two-story annex, which will house three science laboratories and the school's dental hygiene clinic. What could not be missed behind the speaker's platform, however, was the large mount of dirt that had already been dug out of the ground at the construction site.
Technically, the construction crews, with their mud-covered construction vehicles, had already beaten the local officials, armed with silver shovels, to the punch.
"Wikipedia says a groundbreaking is a ceremony where you take a shovel and throw some dirt, a few months before construction begins on a project," said Clayton State President Tim Hynes. "Well, our faculty members are too energized about educating our students in the area of science. We just couldn't wait."
The annex is part of an overarching plan to provide more science-lab space to Clayton State students, according to university officials. That plan also includes the construction of an additional science building on the school's Morrow campus, said Corlis Cummings, the university's vice president for business and operations.
Clayton State currently has only seven science labs, and the annex will bring that number up to 10, Cummings said. The annex is being built on the back side of Clayton State's main campus in Morrow, next to the Business and Health Sciences Building, where the existing science labs are located.
Hynes said the expectation of university officials is for construction to be completed in November or December of this year, so students can begin taking classes there during the spring 2011 semester.
Hynes and Cummings said the Business and Health Sciences Building, one of the school's original buildings from when Clayton State opened in 1969, is also going to be renovated as part of the ongoing project to improve science-lab space at the school. It will cost $4.5 million to renovate the building, and build the annex, Cummings said.
"As our enrollment has grown, the demand for lab space has grown as well," Cummings said. "Most of our students take some sort of lab science. This will help relieve some of that burden for now."
According to the University System of Georgia's enrollment report for the fall 2009 semester, Clayton State had an enrollment of 6,587 students.
Cummings added that the larger science building university officials are planning to build will add another 14 science labs for students to use, as well as eight research labs for faculty members. The new building, which will be 100,000 square feet in size, is expected to cost $29.1 million to construct, according to information provided by Cummings.
Hynes said he hopes to have the building built, and ready to open, by the end of 2012, but he said that is dependent upon what the Georgia General Assembly allots for the University System of Georgia in the state's fiscal year 2011 budget.
In recent weeks, there have been talks of steep cuts to funding for the university system.
The system had included funding for Clayton State's science building in its fiscal year 2011 wish list, but at this point, Hynes said, he and other Clayton State officials are still waiting to see if the money will be there this year.
"We're still in a position where we don't know what the dollars will be," he said.