CRYSTAL LAKE – After months of meetings and commissioning an independent consultant study on the feasibility of a new health and fitness facility, McHenry County College trustees remain divided on the project.
A proposed facility that potentially could house health science classrooms, laboratory space, a health care clinic and a fitness center was targeted as the first step in a $278 million expansion plan for the college in the next 10 years, but some trustees are not convinced a new facility is needed at all.
Board Chairman Ron Parrish said that while he “100 percent” supports the need to provide health care programs, he no longer is sure a new facility is the best option after going through the roughly 200-page report and attending multiple committees on the subject.
“I’m way far away from being convinced that we need to be doing brick and mortar [expansion] before we’ve actually vetted these other ideas,” Parrish said.
Those other ideas include moving courses off campus, exploring more cooperative efforts with area health care providers and other community colleges and bolstering online instruction.
But trustees such as Mary Miller said part of the feedback and reports the board received showed that students wanted the facility to be on campus, and important laboratory work and patient interaction practice could not be done in online offerings.
“You’re always going to need health care,” Miller said in support of the expansion. “The health care industry is going to grow like you can’t even believe with the [Affordable Care Act].”
The size and cost of the project concerned other trustees such as Molly Walsh and Tom Wilbeck.
The cheapest proposed option would add 75,500 gross square feet all dedicated for health science classrooms and laboratories. The most expensive option would add about 130,400 gross square feet and include a fitness center and clinic along with the classrooms and laboratories.
“I believe there is a need, but my problem is the size we’re talking about,” Walsh said. “I just feel we’re approaching this the wrong way.”
College faculty and administrators said the need for space in nursing and health programs has grown significantly in recent years. Many programs have maxed out enrollment, and Tony Miksa, vice president of academic and student affairs, said nursing students have had to go to other institutions to finish degrees because of waiting lists.
“This is something for the next 30 years you would not expect to see changed,” Miksa said of planning for the future. “We don’t want to cut away at the functionality of the programs.”
Trustee Linda Liddell said board members should continue to approach the project one step at a time and not rush to a decision either way.
“This is a big project,” she said. “We don’t want to push it.”