WORTHINGTONMinnesota West Community and Technical College will ask for $1.9 million from the Minnesota Legislature in its next capital bonding session for the design of an estimated $31.5 million construction project to be built on its Worthington and Granite Falls campuses.

The request for construction funding would be for the 2024 fiscal year. If both requests are granted, the nursing program in Worthington and Granite Falls and the public peace officer program in Worthington will see significant upgrades in their learning spaces.

“I think it’s fair to say that the college recognizes there’s critical shortages in talent (in the current job market) for both those programs,” said College President Terry Gaalswyk. “We see this as an investment in the future of not only our students but our communities that we’re missioned to serve.”

He said investing in those programs would help raise their status, visibility and relevancy, perhaps helping to fulfill some of the demand for employees in the region.

In addition, student services offices in Granite Falls will be renovated to create more of a “one-stop” experience for students.

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Jodi Landgaard, vice president of finance and facilities for Minnesota West Community and Technical College, looks out at a space where new construction for the nursing program and the public peace officer programs would likely be. (Kari Lucin / The Globe)
Jodi Landgaard, vice president of finance and facilities for Minnesota West Community and Technical College, looks out at a space where new construction for the nursing program and the public peace officer programs would likely be. (Kari Lucin / The Globe)

Plans are still in the pre-design phase, and figures remain tentative, but most likely, renovations would include remodeling 24,000 square feet of existing space in Worthington, demolishing the 10,000 square feet of space within the temporary annex dome, and constructing a new building of about 30,000 square feet. It will also include renovating about 20,000 square feet in Granite Falls.

The idea for the project began with an assessment of needs in 2019, during Minnesota West’s comprehensive facility planning process, said Jodi Landgaard, vice president of finance and facilities for the college. Predesign work continued as the COVID-19 pandemic began, and rather than bringing large groups of people together in a room, the college and its architects found other ways to gather student, faculty and staff feedback.

One concept that will be integrated into the new learning spaces is a “classatory,” a hybrid space for both hands-on lab work and classroom learning. Minnesota West has already tested similar spaces on its Pipestone campus, Landgaard said.

The space for the nursing and nursing assistant programs is simply too small for the number of students who use it, said College Provost Jeffery Williamson.

“Those are two of the largest single programs at Minnesota West,” he said, but at both campuses, the programs’ space is made of modified classrooms rather than purpose-built rooms resembling real hospitals, clinics or long-term care facilities. They were created based on cohorts of 36 to 60 students.

There are usually 100 to 130 students now.

Law enforcement or peace officer students have also made do with the space they have, Williamson said. That program started with about a dozen students and now usually has 40 to 50 learners.

“This is a really good opportunity for us to become a leader for this kind of (program) offering in southwest Minnesota,” he said.

“We want to make sure we have adequate space,” Landgaard added. “…right now, (the construction project is) very much a concept.”