Blue Ridge College offers classes at former hospital
by Jazz Clark
After months of deliberation between Morgan County officials and Blue Ridge Community & Technical College of Martinsburg, the contract for a local extension was officially signed on July 5.
On August 6, the college will open shop at the former hospital building in Berkeley Springs. Blue Ridge hopes to offer many popular courses to Morgan County residents.
The contract to lease the old hospital facility was signed by County Commission President Stacy Dugan and Blue Ridge President Peter Checkovich.
“We can’t possibly fathom the benefit of higher education coming to Morgan County,” said Commissioner Brad Close, who worked on the contract. “Our county has never seen this level of access to college courses before, which will pay dividends for years to come. It’s the best thing we can provide our community.”
School officials are planning to start the Certified Nursing Assistant program in October. Credit classes will begin in January.
Blue Ridge will be using half of the second floor — about 12,000 square feet of the facility. This includes former administration offices, the kitchens and the first hall-way. Most of the equipment and furniture inside have been sold.
Some of the items, including some of the hospital beds, were donated to Blue Ridge for use in their programs. Other items were sold, with proceeds given for use in scholarships.
Blue Ridge will pay $4,500 per month (or $54,000 per year) in rent for their section of the facility. The base rate is $4.50 per square foot, according to the lease.
Rent will increase by 3% a year over the course of a five-year contract.
“That’s $54,000 the county wouldn’t have seen otherwise, which is a major benefit for the taxpayers,” Close said.
The county will still pay for utilities, including water, sewer and electric.
Signs will be installed at the site in the near future, as a name for the new campus has not yet been finalized.
As of now, the campus is tentatively designated the “Pines Opportunity Center.”
“This will be wonderful for Berkeley Springs,” said Carol Rothstein, director for the Morgan County Campus.
“We have one of the lowest college-going rates in the state,” she said. “Giving people access to something they can’t normally study like health care or agriculture will be incredibly helpful.”
It’s at least a 45-minute drive for students to attend higher education, she said, so being able to study locally is convenient.
“We don’t know right now what construction we’ll be doing in the space,” Rothstein said. “Moving into someplace new is a kind of constantly evolving process.”
Cleaning by a professional company and minor construction will continue through July and August, with decisions on major renovations still in the works.
Rothstein hopes to have a dedicated phone number for the new campus soon so student inquiries can be fielded.