Work begins on Oakhurst’s future college campus

Sandra Caldwell, president of Reedley College, welcomes a crowd of around 40 to a community feedback meeting on a future Oakhurst campus Wednesday night inside Oakhurst Community Center.
Sandra Caldwell, president of Reedley College, welcomes a crowd of around 40 to a community feedback meeting on a future Oakhurst campus Wednesday night inside Oakhurst Community Center. Sierra Star

The process to utilize $25 million of Measure C on a permanent college campus in Oakhurst has officially begun.

At a meeting inside Oakhurst Community Center March 22, officials with the State Center Community College District laid out plans to begin deciding what programs the future mountain campus should offer, and its potential location, to a crowd of about 40 people.

A major part of the process, they said, was getting as much public input as possible to assure the community is a key part in shaping the college’s future.

“We are very, very interested in getting your feedback on what you want,” said Darin Soukup, director of Oakhurst Community College Center. “Since we’ve been focused primarily on general education and transfer degrees, we don’t have a signature program or pathway. But we have opportunities.”

Until April 7, anyone from the public can fill out a short survey on what signature programs the college should offer, as well as any benefits it could provide to the community. That survey is available by sharing the link, http://bit.ly/oakhurst17, with others.

Some who filled out the survey at Wednesday’s meeting listed forestry and natural resource sciences as course ideas given the state’s ongoing tree mortality crisis, as well as partnerships with adult school programs, library expansions, and a community room as potential benefits.

Also, until April 14, Oakhurst firm Odell Planning & Research, Inc., is accepting all submissions on the college’s future location.

Among the criteria being considered are a potential site’s size, shape, and terrain, as well as its convenience for students, access to utilities and services, location near streets and transit systems, and potential biological impacts as well as environmental concerns over floods or other weather scenarios.

SCCCD officials have indicated a primary goal is to house the Oakhurst campus on a minimum of 10 acres, but that number is flexible, they said. Oakhurst Community College Center is currently located on 2.7 acres at Crane Valley Road (426) and Civic Lane.

Scott Odell’s firm was brought on for a $24,500 contract to help analyze all factors relating to the future campus.

At the meeting, Odell told the crowd any site idea would be accepted by filling out a submission form, available by contacting him at scott@odellplanning.com, by calling the office at (559) 472-7167, or delivering it in person.

“We’re starting fresh from scratch, with a formal process that starts tonight, basically,” Odell said. “We want to hear from anyone who might have a good idea. We want to hear whatever your suggestions are.”

After all submissions are received, Odell estimated it would take about four to six months for his firm to analyze each potential location and narrow them down to “no more than five” choices.

Once that’s done, they will be submitted to the district’s administrative team and chancellor’s office for review, with the preferred site then chosen and presented to the board for review and potential approval at an unscheduled date, Odell said.

Measure C, a $485 million bond to improve facilities in the district, was passed by 64.2% of voters last June, with a 58.4% margin of support in Madera County.

Besides the permanent Oakhurst center, the measure also includes several other expansions to its six campuses, such as a new campus in southeast Fresno and a 120-acre Clovis location. Of the $485 million, $170 million is set aside for Fresno City College - mostly for a parking garage and new buildings for science and math - $60 million for the Clovis campus, and other amounts to expand Madera Community College into a fully accredited college.