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College prepares answers in Martinsburg plan

August 14, 2000

College prepares answers in Martinsburg plan



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Shepherd College is preparing answers to more than three dozen detailed questions being asked by state officials who must review or approve the college's plans to move its community and technical college to downtown Martinsburg.

Questions in a 4 1/2 page letter range from the impact of traffic to whether Shepherd is the best choice to provide community and technical college services or "whether it should be delivered collaboratively" with Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College or other schools.

The letter was written by Cathy Armstrong, chairwoman of the new Interim Governing Board that must approve the move, and John Hoblitzell, chairman of the new Higher Education Policy Commission. The second board will review whether the plan fits with the overall goals and needs of West Virginia's college and university system.

The moving of the community and technical college to the abandoned Blue Ridge Outlet Center has been much in dispute since the July 19 public announcement about its relocation. State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and other elected officials have called for a more detailed, objective look at the plan, and the alternative sites.

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"The rules and regulations require a fairly high level of detailed information for making such a transfer," Hoblitzell said of the questions being asked. He noted Shepherd College had already answered many of them in their request to be included on the Aug. 23 agenda of the Interim Governing board.

Hoblitzell said the college is capable of making an informed judgment, although officials have said they prefer to go to Blue Ridge.

"It's not uncommon for institutions to handle these kinds of things themselves" he said.

Shepherd College President David Dunlop said "we will have a response to every issue we can respond to." Some issues, like the exact details of a lease, must await state approval to proceed with the plan. The college already has provided answers to 75-80 percent of the questions, he said.

Dunlop believes the college has done a good job analyzing the issue, examining all possible alternatives and possesses the legal authority and the ability to provide community college services in the Eastern Panhandle.

But, he added, "If the Interim Governing Board feels this is not the time to move, they will tell us, won't they?"

One of the questions raised in the letter is whether Shepherd should focus on its four-year college mission and let someone else handle the two-year program.

Unger said he is pleased the questions are being answered, but wishes a feasibility study would be done to determine the best way to provide the most relevant courses to the most people in the panhandle. He proposed such a study last year, but the governor did not want to do it, he said.

"All this should have been done before the announcement" of going to the Blue Ridge, Unger said.

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