It’s the final countdown.
Construction workers are putting on final touches and employees are unloading supplies at Firebaugh’s new state-of-the-art college campus.
No longer called the North District Center, the new West Hills College Firebaugh Center will welcome students for the fall term on Aug. 15 and as Bethany Matos, the Dean of the Firebaugh Center put it, “We are ready for students.”
Those students will be looking at a spacious two-story building that measures 41,000 square feet. With huge picture windows, the building boasts a panoramic view of the foothills to the west and the San Joaquin River to the east. A beautiful staircase winds its way to the second floor where classrooms, labs, and conference rooms are located.
One of the highlights of the main floor is the new Fresno County Library. The collaboration between the college and Fresno County will move the library from its current location in the southern part of town to the Firebaugh Center. It will be available to the entire community – even on Saturdays – and also features a separate Kids Room.
In explaining the building’s motif, Matos said, “What we wanted was a building that was very open, bright, and transparent.”
Both Matos and Amber Myrick, the college’s Director of Marketing and Communication, said that the Student Services Department, located on the first floor, will be a convenient “one stop shopping” area for students.
“Students can meet with a counselor about their classes and then go right next door for financial aid,” Myrick explained. “Everything is in one place to assist the students.”
There will also be a tutoring center available at no cost.
Besides two science labs, the first floor also boasts a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math center, and a community room that Myrick said will be available to local groups and businesses for meetings and presentations.
Looking east towards the San Joaquin River, an outdoor square is undergoing the final touches of landscaping. The area will include outdoor classrooms and an amphitheater for events.
During the pandemic that brought about distance learning, it was found that many rural areas did not have reliable internet access. But now anyone can go to the campus and immediately have wifi access.
It is all part of the college’s goal of making the Firebaugh Center “the hub of the community,” according to Matos.
“We wanted a campus that will be very ‘Firebaughesque’,” said Matos. “We want it to reflect the community and the Westside. We can’t wait for school to start and we are ready for students.”
During the last few weeks, local residents noticed that the old campus building, which was erected in the 1960s and was originally a bowling alley, is being torn down to make way for a much-needed parking lot for students and staff.
Besides the opening of fall classes on Aug. 15, the formal dedication of the campus will take place on Sept. 27.
For information about registering for classes, call 559-934-2980.