Plans for new Watley Center are announced

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Crowder College Watley Center students could be attending classes in a new 50,000-square-foot educational facility by the fall of 2008.

"There is a definite need for a larger facility," said Jerry Watley, who will be financing costs associated with building the new Crowder College Watley Center. "The current facility has been adequate up until this point, but it is time to add additional space for the students."

The new facility, which is currently being constructed on Business Highway 37 across from Barry Electric Coopera-tive headquarters, will feature around 30 classrooms, administrative offices and a 14,000-square-foot auditorium.

"We hope that in locating the new facility on the north side of Cassville we may be able to draw more students from the Monett area," said Watley.

The new facility will be more than double the size of the current Watley Center, which is located on 13th Street in Cassville. The current 20,000-square-foot facility, which serves over 400 students each year, features five traditional classrooms, three computer labs, one science lab and a general education diploma (GED) classroom.

"We are restricted by the space we have," said Angela Seymour, Watley Center director. "We are so grateful that Jerry has offered to build a larger facility for us. We are very thankful for what Jerry has done for us in the past, his vision for Cassville, the opportunity we have had to partner with him and his generosity."

After the new facility is completed, the equipment from the current Watley Center will be moved to the new educational building. The college will be looking at fundraising possibilities in order to equip the additional rooms at the new facility.

"We will be looking at our budget to determine what equipment we can add," said Seymour. "Then we hope to receive some local sponsorships for classrooms in order to equip as many rooms as we possibly can. From there, we will grow into the facility as we have funding."

The Watley Center currently offers six different two-year degrees. An emergency medical technician (EMT) course will be added to the college curriculum this fall. Administrators are also looking at adding a nursing program at the Watley Center.

"We are using every single room to its fullest potential right now," said Seymour. "Once the new facility is fully furnished, we will be able to offer more flexibility for our students."

Administrators will begin researching possible partnerships with local four-year universities in order to offer students an extended list of classes, said Seymour.

"Having the additional space will allow us to increase the courses we offer," said Seymour. "Also with the new facility, our half-time faculty will have office space and larger classrooms.

"The general layout of the facility will be more conducive to education," said Seymour. "The building will be built to be a school. Our current facility has worked very well for us, but we are really excited to know that the new facility will feature a layout designed for education."

Seymour has been invited to look at draft layouts of the future facility and offer suggestions for the design.

In addition to the 30 new classrooms, Watley Center students and faculty will have access to the new auditorium, which will seat between 250 and 300 individuals.

On Sunday, when not being used by the college, the auditorium will be rented to the First Baptist Church NorthPoint congregation.

After the new facility has been completed and all equipment has been transferred to the new location, the current Watley Center facility will become a warehouse for the Barry County Museum, which has been constructed on Highway 112 south of Cassville.

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