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Evolving Cuyamaca campus benefits current and future students

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As the district it serves continues to grow, Cuyamaca College has kept pace with record growth of its own. Student enrollment at the El Cajon school, which along with Grossmont College forms the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, has soared to 8,000. To accommodate this growth, new buildings are sprouting up on campus and others are undergoing major renovations.

"We have twice been recognized nationally as one of the fastest growing community colleges in the country, and with the new facilities, I think we'll continue to be on the national radar," said Dr. Geraldine Perri, president of Cuyamaca College.

The ongoing construction at Cuyamaca is helping the college achieve key goals laid out in its Master Plan developed in 2000, including having the capacity to accommodate 15,000 students by 2015. Much of the funding for these projects comes from Proposition R, a facilities bond measure that was approved by East County voters in 2002.

Already, students are taking advantage of the new Cuyamaca Child Development Center (CCDC), which opened its doors in 2002. An extensive remodel of the outdated Automotive Technology Complex, originally built in the '70s when the college opened, was also recently completed. NTDStichler, a California architecture firm with a San Diego office, designed the plans for both projects.

The Automotive Technology Complex at Cuyamaca College recently underwent a major renovation that included updated lecture rooms, computer labs and state-of-the-art automotive testing and diagnostic equipment.

The $2.25 million renovation of the Automotive Technology Complex was a top priority in the Master Plan. The revitalized facility includes up-to-date lecture rooms, computer labs, and state-of-the-art automotive testing and diagnostic equipment.

"The building was more than 25 years old, and the technology hadn't kept up with the automotive repair curriculum," said Tom Christian, an NTDStichler principal and partner. "The program has become more computer-centered and interactive with local car dealerships who want people that can work with the computerized car systems of the 21st century. Architecturally, we turned the entrance around toward the main entrance of the campus so the complex feels more integrated with the rest of the school."

NTDStichler also designed the new Communication Arts Center. Construction of the three-story, 84,000-square-foot building is slated to begin this fall and expected to be finished next year. The approximately $25 million center will be home to the school's music, drama and fine and digital arts program.

NTDStichler designed the Communication Arts Center at Cuyamaca College. The 84,000-square-foot building will be home to the school's music, drama and fine and digital arts program.

It will include a music department with acoustically optimized instrument and choral rehearsal rooms, a music library and an electronic music lab. Painting, drawing and sculpture will be taught in five daylight-filled studios while a variety of digital arts courses will be offered in two computerized studios. The center also will include a 440-seat theater for staging various productions and a smaller state-of-the-art multimedia theater.

According to Christian, the building also was designed to make it easier for students to navigate between the upper and lower levels of the campus.

"The Cuyamaca campus is fairly hilly and divided by default into upper and lower campuses," he explained. "The Communication Arts Center is sort of a gateway to the campus that's designed to allow students to make the vertical change from the lower to upper level right at the front entrance without having to take a circuitous route."

Currently under construction is the new Science and Technology Mall designed by Spencer/Hoskins Associates. The Altadena, Calif.-based architecture firm also designed Cuyamaca's Facilities Master Plan.

"There was a terrible shortage of both science lab and computer lab space on campus," said Jim Spencer, a Spencer/Hoskins principal. "The school also lacked an open learning center for independent study using computers. We addressed these three major needs with a single building that is based on the same design concept as an indoor shopping mall."

The two-story building, with approximately 59,000 square feet of space, will include classes and labs that open into a centralized area, or mall, with computer stations where students can drop in to work. Offices will be located close to the mall to provide students with easy access to faculty members.

The new facility is also designed to be energy efficient. The lower level will have an under-floor air conditioning system that saves energy by heating or cooling just the small areas occupied by people instead of the entire room. In addition, adjustable skylights will provide natural lighting for the central mall.

"Reflectors calculate the sun's angles throughout the year to supplement the artificial lighting or allow it to be turned off," Spencer explained. "It's a very effective energy-saving strategy."

Other key projects on the horizon for Cuyamaca include a new Student Center scheduled to begin construction at the end of the year, and a Business/Computer Information Systems Building planned to start construction in 2007.

"The new facilities will guarantee the future expansion of Cuyamaca College and help the college in advancing its goals to serve the community," Perri said. "More broadly and comprehensively, they will position Cuyamaca College competitively in terms of technology, and will assist the college in providing an educational environment which is highly conducive to student learning and student success."

O'Donnell is a San Diego-based freelance writer.


Automotive Technology Complex

Developer: Cuyamaca College

Architect: NTD Stichler

Contractors: Gordon-Prill, general contractor

Funding: Prop R and State Scheduled Maintenance Funds

Communication Arts Center

Developer: Cuyamaca College

Architect: NTD Stichler

Contractors: Gordon-Prill, general contractor

Funding: State and local

Science and Technology Mall

Developer: Cuyamaca College

Architect: Spencer/Hoskins Associates

Contractors: Rudolph & Sletten, construction manager (general contractor not yet selected)

Funding: State

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