Education center in Kennett plans for additions

Thursday, October 3, 2002

Dunklin Daily Democrat

KENNETT, Mo. -- The Kennett Area Higher Education Center is accomplishing its mission, say school administrators, but they want money to do more.

At a meeting of the Kennett City Council on Tuesday, Marsha Blanchard, the center's director, and Larry Swindle, resource committee co-chair, detailed what the center has done while asking for help to raise money for new construction.

More than 700 hours of college courses are now being taught at the center, Swindle said. But with only four classrooms, the spaces are almost always busy.

"We're running out of room," he said. "It's time to expand with another four classrooms."

Swindle said the center is aiming to raise about $200,000 to build four additional classrooms, one of which will be a science lab.

Blanchard said about 6,000 square feet of the 30,000 square foot building is being utilized at present. Even with four additional classrooms, more than half of the building would still be undeveloped, she said.

One-half or more of the students are non-traditional students, people with families or those who are working and find it difficult to commute to college campuses in the area. The center offers an alternative through local classes during early morning, evening and weekend hours.

But while money is being sought for building classrooms, Swindle said the Kennett National Bank is planning to help pay for a lounge for students and instructors.

"We would like for you to entertain the possibility of matching funds, or an outright gift," Swindle told the council. "We think this is a worthwhile project for Kennett and the surrounding area."

Councilman David Dalton agreed with Swindle.

"We work to get factories to come and bring jobs to help the city," he said. " This is something we have that is growing and will help our people. It is a true benefit to Kennett."

Councilman Michael Tucker asked how the cuts announced by Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau would affect the center.

Blanchard said the cuts had come as no surprise. She said the center had started cost-cutting measures in August, such as reducing operations to four days a week and watching telephone and utility bills more closely.

Even while stringent budget measures are in effect, Blanchard emphasized expansion.

"We do not want to lose our momentum," she said. "We will be adding two new classes next year."

The center, situated in a former Kroger supermarket building, is a cooperative effort of Southeast Missouri State University, the city of Kennett, the Southeast Missouri University Foundation and the Southeast Missouri Educational Consortium. It was dedicated in June 2000.

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