Columbia College to fill YouZeum building

Friday, October 1, 2010 | 2:10 p.m. CDT; updated 5:48 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 2, 2010

COLUMBIA — Columbia College nursing students will no longer practice in a renovated church.

They will share a building with the college's online staff, though.

Columbia College President Gerald Brouder announced Friday that the college will relocate its nursing program and online operations to the YouZeum building on the corner of Eighth and Cherry streets, which currently houses interactive science exhibits for children.

“This will ease greatly the space crunch at the college and provide fine quarters for our online operations and nursing program,” Brouder said.

The U.S. Department of Education approved the voluntary re-transfer of the former Columbia Federal Building on Thursday, on the condition that the building be used for educational purposes.

The price was undisclosed because the U.S. General Services Administration has not approved the transfer of title.

The college hopes to open in time for the 2011 fall semester after minor renovations. It has less than 11 months to finalize plans with the education department.

Nearly 21,000 students enrolled in at least one online class during the 2009-2010 school year. The program started 10 years ago with 185 students online. The program’s administration and teachers moved last February to the old Columbia Photo building on North Tenth Street.

“Our program is growing exponentially,” Brouder said. “We relocated to Columbia Photo and we’ve already filled that. We'll be moving a 43-person administrative staff to East Cherry (Street).”

The nursing program will also move into the building, Brouder said. The program currently conducts nursing simulations in a renovated church on campus.

“My background being that of nursing, of course, I am excited for this move,” Brouder said after the news conference. “It is an important aspect of the curriculum in nursing to continue practicing one’s skills. Here we are out of space, at least for uninterrupted training. It’s a great move that will allow more simulated hands-on work.”

Negotiations had been in the works for the building since mid-June, when the Columbia School Board dropped out of negotiations with YouZeum.

Issues with Columbia College’s original proposal held up the negotiations since the end of July. The college made a few changes to its submission and the education department approved it, said Bob Hutton, the executive director of administrative services for Columbia College.

“The problem was that we had the misunderstanding that having a small part of the building to be used as community space was OK— for things like Rotary Club or Humane Society meetings,” Hutton said. “We found out that was not accepted in the eyes of the fed. So we determined other uses for the space.”

Plans for a staff break room connected to a commercial kitchen, a document imaging center and a room for two-way video conferencing for faculty training were the final approvals.

No date has been set for the YouZeum to close. The museum was open for two years. YouZeum Board Chairman Michael Szewczyk announced the sale of the building last June.

The YouZeum was plagued by low attendance, issues surrounding the resignation of former executive director Gwen Robbins, and low capital investment since it opened in May 2008. Reducing operating hours to 20 from 42 per week did not help reduce costs.

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