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Unger says Rumsey right site for community college

December 16, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A state senator suggested Thursday that James Rumsey Technical Institute near Hedgesville, W.Va., be considered as a site for a community college in Berkeley County.

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Shepherd College is considering moving its Community and Technical College to the Martinsburg area, and James Rumsey would be an ideal location, said John Unger, D-Berkeley.

James Rumsey has teleconferencing capabilities, which would allow the community college to receive courses from schools around the world, Unger said.

The school is also considering developing its own day-care center, which would also be beneficial for the community college, Unger said.

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Unger said he is suggesting that a building be constructed on the James Rumsey property for the community college.

Several buildings in the Martinsburg area have been considered for the community college, but Unger said he believes it would be cheaper to build a new facility rather than try to renovate an existing building to fit the needs of a community college.

"You would maximize the use of the facility and have a campus," Unger said.

James Rumsey officials could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Whether Shepherd College would lease a building or build a new one would be up to the college's board of directors, said Shepherd College President David Dunlop.

"We're open to whatever makes sense," Dunlop said Thursday.

Unger's suggestion came as state legislators released a higher education report that suggests the community college should be moved to Martinsburg. The report also suggests that Shepherd expand graduate programs.

The preliminary report, developed by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems in Colorado, was requested by lawmakers and had been in development since last year.

It is separate from a higher education needs study that Dunlop, Unger and Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, have requested from Gov. Cecil Underwood.

If the Community and Technical College is moved to Martinsburg, the needs study would determine what type of courses could be offered at the school and in a new graduate program, Dunlop said.

The study released this week looks at higher education needs across the state.

The recommendations it makes for Shepherd College are similar to ideas that have been discussed by Dunlop.

The report said the Community and Technical College should become more independent, with its own location, faculty, administration and budget.

The community college offers course work in commercial printing and computer instruction, which are needed for work force training programs in the growing Eastern Panhandle, education officials said.

Dunlop said some people do not realize the Community and Technical College exists at the Shepherdstown campus, and he has suggested moving the college to a separate location in Martinsburg to "give it some identity."

The Blue Ridge outlet complex, which has lost more than 40 tenants and has just six stores remaining, has been considered as a site for the college. Other possibilities include Berkeley Plaza on U.S. 11 north of town and the former Lowe's building at the intersection of W.Va. 9, U.S. 11 and W.Va. 45, Unger said.

Regardless of which site is selected, the process will not take long, Unger predicted. He said a community college should be up and running in the Martinsburg area within 18 months.

"I think we have support in the Legislature to move on that," Unger said.

Unger has said increased job development skills are needed in the area. When local workers want to get specialized training in computer information technology or other fields they complain they have to go to West Virginia University in Morgantown or colleges in Washington, D.C., to get what they need, Unger said.

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