Poulsbo OC campus prepares to book classes

POULSBO — Higher education has finally arrived in North Kitsap — at least for 500 students.

Olympic College’s Poulsbo campus will open its doors for winter session Jan. 5, 2004. The college, located on the Olhava site donated by the family of that name 10 years ago, has been built around the needs of the Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island and North End community base, said Poulsbo campus director Kelly Woodward.

“We feel like (the college) is a good response to what the community had identified they wanted,” said Woodward. “We want a place where students can come and have a nice learning community and I think we’ve provided that.”

“We’ll definitely have a stronger presence in North Kitsap, Poulsbo, Kingston and Bainbridge Island,” said David Mitchell, president of Olympic College. “The (people of those communities) will have easy access to higher education.”

Mitchell added that North Kitsap residents won’t be the only ones benefiting from a new college, noting that the new campus “frees up more space” in Bremerton for students on the main campus.

Classes of all kinds, including many in the computer information systems and business technology fields, are being offered and many are still open. Registration will continue through the first week of classes.

Woodward said the biggest area of service for OC Poulsbo, at least in its first term of operation, is “academic-transfer” type courses — classes for students looking to transfer after two years to a bigger institution of higher education.

Within that category are students from Running Start, a program designed for high school students to take required college-level courses while still in high school, at a cost that covers only books and campus fees.

“What we are doing is soliciting counselors so we can see what we can offer them,” Woodward said. “They’ve told us what they wanted.”

For many of the Running Start students, OC Poulsbo is not yet an option, however.

Sheila Walters, a counselor at North Kitsap High School, said while she’s happy her students will have another choice for higher education, offerings at OC Poulsbo will need to grow to attract more North Kitsap students.

“(North Kitsap) Running Start kids are finding the course options are really limited,” Walters explained. “There are kids that are not able to take advantage of (OC Poulsbo) and because of that they’re still continuing at Bremerton.”

Walters said of the 39 Running Start students she works with, perhaps only five of them will be able to utilize OC Poulsbo right away. But that number can and will grow, she said.

“I do think that (the number of students) will change,” Walters said. “I’m excited for the community and I think our kids are just anxious to see what happens.”

“I think that they’re looking at their course options and they’ll be sensitive to the needs of the kids,” she added.

Woodward said she’s just happy that the campus is ready to open for business half way through the middle of the year.

“The response is so positive when you consider that we’re starting in the middle of the year,” Woodward commented. She also noted the immediate impact the campus will have on ferry-bound students as well as those not willing to commute to the current campus in Bremerton.

“We’ll pull students who have been using the ferry system,” Woodward said. “And pick up new students who didn’t have the time and motivation to make it to Bremerton.”

College officials assert that they will do their best to provide for all students in the community but Woodward said she realizes there are certain pitfalls.

“Our goal is to provide as many courses as we can locally, but we don’t have unlimited space to offer every possible class at every possible time,” she said.

About 7,000 students total currently attend Olympic College, with campuses based in Bremerton and Shelton. The Poulsbo campus will have a capacity for about 1,500, Woodward said, leaving room for 1,000 more students after winter term.

There are also Phase II developments — the opening of science labs and several more classrooms — and a footprint that could be used to build 15,000 extra square-feet, if necessary.

The nursing program, now facing space dilemmas at the Bremerton campus, will move its entire program to OC Poulsbo starting in the fall of 2004, Woodward added.

“The decision was made (to move the nursing program) because the program has such a critical need to expand,” she said.

The OC Poulsbo campus is also technologically advanced, offering some of the newest forms of teleconferencing and wireless technology available.

“(The campus) is as advanced as any facility I’ve seen in the state,” said Brian Dahl, executive director of information technology at the college.

The Poulsbo campus is linked through the Kitsap County’s Public Utilities District’s fiber-optic network and inside the building, uses a blend of copper and fiber-optic technology. There are also several zones where students can have a wireless connection to the Internet via their personal computers.

Dahl said one of the things he’s most excited about is the teleconferencing capability. The campus is networked to have an ability to have classes taught at the Shelton or Bremerton campuses, but students can watch the teachers via the network and take the courses in Poulsbo.

“You can have a class with five (students) at Poulsbo, 10 at Bremerton and five at Shelton,” Dahl said, “that are integrated through a video network.”

The building itself was built in a style to reflect both the Native American and Scandinavian heritage of the area. Fir and cedar woods in the building reflect the native side and birch wood was used to reflect the Scandinavian side, Woodward said.

One issue that has been raised early on is security — the campus will have only one position that responds to both security and maintenance at a given time.

“We’re still looking at security needs up there,” Mitchell said. “We have a very elaborate alarm system, but we’re still looking at our options.”

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