Augusta Technical College opens its Columbia County campus Monday.
Situated on Horizon South Parkway in Grovetown near such manufacturers as John Deere Commercial Inc. and GIW Industries, the 22,000-square-foot school one day will provide students an opportunity to seek specific training for specific jobs, said Augusta Tech President Terry Elam.
“This lab was specifically designed to teach a number of different classes as needed,” Elam said as he pointed out the features of a multi-use lab at the school near the welding lab. “We’ll be polling local businesses to find out what they need in terms of training for new employees and use this lab to fulfill those needs with our students.”
In its first semester, though, Elam said only daytime courses will be offered at the new campus. That’s because the school currently has no money to hire more teachers, so instructors from the Thomson and Augusta campuses are filling in.
“When we opened the Thomson campus, we got funds to hire 27 instructors. We got the same when we opened the Waynesboro campus,” Elam said. “When we were getting this one ready, I thought we’d get funds for 12 instructors. We got zero.”
Funding struggles have plagued the campus since plans to build the school first got under way 11 years ago. The state Legislature initially allocated $4.6 million to build the school in 2000. It wasn’t until five years later, though, that then-Gov. Sonny Perdue released that money for use.
The next year, construction plans again came to a halt when the state Senate cut $135,000 earmarked for site preparation at the 34-acre campus. Eventually, the money was added back into the budget.
Following a ground-breaking ceremony in September 2007, the project again was delayed when wetlands at the site stopped construction of an access road. An entrance road finally was built about two years later and construction started soon after.
In addition to two industrial labs, the 13-classroom school also features two computer labs.
And though the first semester is light on class offerings, the school still is proving successful.
“I would have been satisfied if 100 students enrolled the first semester,” Elam said. “As of (Wednesday), we have 150 enrolled.”
A celebration for the new campus will be held, but Elam didn’t immediately know when. He tentatively hopes to hold one in November.