Oct 252015

By Nolan Madden

A space usage study has been initiated to determine whether Northland Pioneer College campus facilities are being adequately or underutilized, and whether significant changes will be executed soon to improve this in light of declining enrollment trends.

The assessment is being conducted by Pinetop architect and independent consultant John Jarchow to determine not only how space is currently being used across the four NPC campuses located in Winslow, Holbrook, Snowflake/Taylor and Show Low, but what the college might do to improve that usage.

During a retreat Tuesday, Jarchow advised the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board of the study’s findings and its impact on the campus’ geography, which could result in restructuring and relocation of campus facilities and staff.

In addition to assessing how physical space is currently used, Jarchow said the proposed scope of the study also reviews available physical capacities and feasibility of revised uses for each of the facilities.

Board member Frank Lucero expressed to Jarchow his concern that an elimination and relocation of campus facilities to the county’s southern end could be favored in the decision making process.

“The real argument is going to come down to everybody moving things south and leaving the northern part alone, leaving it dry. That’s my concern, and I’m sure it’s going to be a concern to people in Holbrook, and also Winslow for that matter, because you’re going to have an interest in building up the south.

“The concern across the north (county campuses) is that this whole study is to move things to the south, and if we’re having someone do the study who is from there, it looks bad,” he said.

“I personally don’t believe I have any agenda. I’m looking at this professionally and at the data that has been provided to me and can tell you, from all of my discussions with the NPC president and vice president, that there is no indication that that is an agenda or is even to be considered,” Jarchow assured the board.

“What I did hear from the president is that she does not want to move the north and south campus. She specifically did not want to (entertain that as an option). With all due respect, that is not where I am headed.”

Vice President of Administrative Services Blaine Hatch commented, “With this scope of work, we are talking about a motion from the board and a four campus study of space planning. We’re not talking about adding new facilities, or anything associated with building up or bringing down any particular location. We are talking about making recommendations on how we can best use our facilities.”

Lucero stated he believed that the study resulted from initial internal discussions on the feasibility of moving NPC administrative operations to its Silver Creek Campus location in Snowflake, which Jarchow said was, to his knowledge, eliminated as a consideration early in the study process.

NPC President Jeanne Swarthout noted regarding the future plan, “I think it’s narrow to say it was about moving administration. It was a greater issue involving the library, faculty, classrooms. It was bigger, in my mind, and it really is, to look at all the campuses.”

Other members of the board expressed that, while the occurrence of the study is a necessary prerequisite to making needed improvements to campus operations, an overriding concern is that millions of dollars not be invested in the modifications, and that usage be recommended for non-campus related community functions that could negatively impact enrollment without careful analysis of the associated rationales beforehand.

The space utilization study’s preliminary phase is under review is expected to be completed this month.