COVID halts opening new NLC campus

The new High Prairie High Prairie campus of Northern Lakes College as seen on the southwest corner at the main entrance on Highway 2.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Northern Lakes College administration and staff are eager to move into its new campus in High Prairie.

However, not much can be done under restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic, says board chair Daniel Vandermeulen, of High Prairie.

“We’ll have to wait the COVID restrictions out,” he says.

“We can’t move in anyways.”

All college and university campuses in Alberta are closed under health restrictions in the pandemic, he notes.

The board hopes that restrictions will be relaxed by the middle of 2021 to allow the college and community to celebrate the new campus and students to return to classes.

“We won’t have a grand opening until fall when we have students in the building,” says Vandermeulen, who served as NLC president for 18 years until he retired in 2005.

“We are very much looking forward to move and it will enable us to expand programs in High Prairie.

“Things will get back to normal when students are allowed to get back to classes.”

Crews finished work to construct the building in November.

However, NLC has restricted access to the interior of the campus under COVID-19 restrictions and protocols.

Vandermeulen says NLC has a lease to use the former credit union building as an interim campus until the summer.

The new college president is also excited about the potential of the new building.

“This campus is comparable to learning facilities in urban centres and it is wonderful that learners in the north will have access to such a space,” says Glenn Mitchell, who became president Sept. 1.

“We are very proud of the new campus in High Prairie.

“Students and staff will have a beautiful facility in which to learn and work.

“Even the building itself is designed to be a teaching tool with partially exposed infrastructure, geothermal heating, and net-zero- ready status.”

The $24 million project is funded by the Government of Alberta’s investment of $21.6 million, along with $2.4 million committed by the college.

Many unique features are included in the campus building that will serve about 225 students that will support specialized training in health and trades programs.

Northern Lakes welcomes its first culinary arts program in the two-storey 33,000- square-foot building that addresses future growth plans, meets workforce demands in the region and increases campus energy efficiency.

It includes three trades labs for carpentry, mechanics, welding and metalwork

The building also includes 33 individual learning suites, 12 classrooms and a health programs lab with space to accommodate up to eight beds.

Another key new feature is open or exposed walls for electrical and geothermal components in some areas, so it will be a teaching tool for students.

Natural wood décor, plenty of natural light, open space and room to grow is also incorporated into the building.

The building is handicapped accessible and also includes special attention to female students and First Nations communities and common areas for students to collaborate.

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