Sunday, December 03, 2000

College may locate near airport

Area leaders leery of plans

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Sites are being scouted near the airport in Boone County as a possible location for the first phase of a Northern Ken tucky community college.

        “We've looked at (potential sites) near the airport, but there's no commitment to building there,” Michael McCall, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, said last week. “We would need about 50 acres in an area that's easily accessible to the public, and would serve the needs of the business community and industry. Whether it's on I-75 or I-275, we're not excluding anything at this point.”

        Talk of building the initial phase of the community college near the airport has some Covington business, educational and political leaders concerned.

        “We're not hurting for technical facilities, but we're sorely lacking when it comes to a community college which has open admissions and deals with developmental education,” said Bill Simon, director of the Housing Authority of Covington. The first phase of Northern Kentucky's community college would offer occupational and technical programs to serve the needs of existing and future businesses, Dr. McCall said. It would be built with $10 million that's been allocated by the General Assembly.

        Dr. McCall said he sees the technical school as part of a network that would include other campuses and sites for classes.

        “Right now, there are three technical schools dotted around the (Northern Kentucky) community. If we have a phase one, and dollars are committed, maybe we should go to the need that's most pressing for us,” Mr. Simon said.

        Cindy Shirooni, who chairs the Covington Business Council, representing more than 200 businesses, agreed.

        “Why spend money to build a technical school when you already have a technical school?” Ms. Shi rooni asked. “What we need is a school that will meet the needs of the inner city residents. These people don't have cars. They're not going to drive out to the airport.”

        Supporters say Covington's Urban Learning Center — a popular, cooperative effort among several colleges, Covington schools and the local community — could provide a model for the community college. “We want to work with KCTCS,” said Covington City Commissioner J.T. Spence, who has led a group supporting an urban learning center that would reach out to nontraditional students. “But at the same time, we want KCTCS to tell us they're going to meet a commitment to the urban area.”

        Beth Sewell, executive director of the Covington Business Council, said a true community college in Covington would educate inner- city residents who are unemployed or under-utilized because of lack of education or training. She said the college could help those residents land jobs in the hospitality industry, which is begging for workers, or residents needing clerical or computer skills.

        “If you want to help the urban core, but put a technical school out by the airport, that would defeat the purpose,” said Covington Mayor-elect Butch Callery.

        Both the Covington Business Council and the Covington City Commission have passed resolutions calling for a community college in downtown Covington.

        Boone Judge-executive Gary Moore said he has not been involved in efforts to recruit a community college to his county, but he added it makes sense to put the technical component near the airport.

        “Many of the manufacturers and employers that have a need for trained workers are close to the airport, so I can see why Dr. McCall is interested in that area for the college's technical side,” Mr. Moore said.

        Jack Moreland, interim superintendent of Covington schools, said interested parties need to be brought together to ensure that the community college meets the needs of Boone County's businesses, as well as those of residents in rural and urban areas.

        “The key to this whole thing, in my view, is a master plan,” Mr. Moreland said. “Until the Kentucky Community and Technical College System says, "Here's what we need to do and here's who we need to do it for,' it's premature to begin locating buildings.”


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