Fremont: Ohlone College is steadily taking on a new look - Article, Office of College Advancement

Thursday, December 8, 2016—Reprinted from East Bay Times.

By Joseph Geha.

Fremont—Ohlone College’s Fremont campus has been undergoing a transformation designed to provide a more modern and supportive learning environment for students when fully completed.

Many of the renovation projects finished to date — newly completed baseball, softball and soccer fields, a revamped swimming pool, a new 900-space parking structure and a megawatt solar panel array — have been funded by the $349 million Measure G bond, passed by local voters in 2010.

And as the community college approaches its 50th anniversary next year, its budding academic core project is now in the early stages of construction.

The project will feature three buildings at the center of campus. One will house science labs and prep rooms and another will contain a recital hall and band room, as well as a recording studio and photography lab among other arts facilities. Also planned is a learning commons building that will host a new library and learning resource center, tutoring center, and labs for communications, math and English.

Throughout all three buildings there will also be classrooms and tiered lecture halls, plus meeting rooms and offices. The core project is estimated to cost about $180,346,965.

Leta Stagnaro, vice president of academic affairs at Ohlone, said the core buildings will replace the three demolished in 2015. They’re projected to be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2019.

Stagnaro also said “collision points,” or spaces of the core buildings where students, faculty and staff gather, interact and have chance encounters, are being created to enable greater collaboration and a community feeling.

“From an academic standpoint, the physical space that you provide as a learning environment is critical to how people learn and the effectiveness of their learning,” Stagnaro said.

She added that projects at the Fremont campus have taken many cues from the college’s modern multi-winged Newark campus, opened in 2008, which features recycled carpeting materials, classrooms with large windows and a common area at its center.

Chris Warden, dean of kinesiology, athletics and broadcasting at the Fremont college, said the condition of the athletic facilities prior to the renovations had been steadily degrading over the years and the difference now is “night and day.”

He said the new facilities are comparable to many professional venues and the players appreciate it. Both men and women’s soccer teams were without a home field for five years as their old facility was removed to make way for the solar array long before the new fields were created. The baseball and softball teams went a little more than a year without their fields.

As a result, the baseball, softball and soccer teams had to practice at local and regional facilities — high schools, city fields, even the police athletic league stadium in San Jose — and played all their games at opponents’ facilities.

“What has been nice about this, is it allows almost all of our programs within athletics to feel appreciated again,” Warden said. “It’s a sense of pride now.”

In all, the athletic fields and pool renovations cost a little less than $14,200,000.

Parts of the gym building on the Fremont campus, particularly the lower floor containing weight, training and locker rooms as well as classrooms, may be renovated in the near future too, according to the Stagnaro. Also being considered for upgrades are the kitchen and cafeteria facilities at the rear of the school.

One of the earliest Measure G projects to be completed was a major overhaul of the campus’ entire infrastructure. Joel Hines of Gilbane Building Co., which is managing the construction projects, says the backbone of the electrical and network infrastructure, natural gas systems and even storm drains were all replaced to keep pace with current and future power and bandwidth demands.

This will allow for further upgrades to both older buildings and relatively newer facilities, such as the Hyman Hall computer lab, in coming years. There are also plans to install a geothermal network of pipes below ground to help cool and heat the school’s facilities more efficiently.

Another simple but important step was completion of the parking structure on the south end of campus last fall, according to Ohlone College President Gari Browning.

Browning said Ohlone, despite its high rankings among community colleges, has long been known by residents and students for its stairs. The hillside campus has for decades required long treks up and down steps to get to classrooms and facilities.

The parking structure is much higher up the hill, and allows students to access classes and other buildings in a north-to-south direction, as opposed to east to west, which follows the path of the stairs.

Browning said she believes these various upgrades to the campus will help create an ideal learning environment, which is the foremost goal of the institution.

“The air will be fresh, the colors will be conducive to learning, the furniture will be such that it’s comfortable and it meets a variety of different needs,” Browning said. “Every single thing that we’re doing is around improving the learning environment.”

By aligning the school’s physical environment more with what students and faculty who were surveyed said they desired, Browning says Ohlone will better serve the community.

“I think people will be excited to come to Ohlone,” she said. “It’ll be a really, really strong place to learn, and we’ll be able to continue our legacy of being a high-performing institution for our district.”

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