Rogue Community College leaders want to restructure the school's practical nursing program ― but the terms of its 2016 bond complicate its ability to offer the same opportunities in both of the counties it serves.
The community college’s leadership scheduled forums in Jackson and Josephine County to collect feedback on a possible plan to relocate the Nursing Associate’s degree program from its Grants Pass campus to a new allied health facility to be built at Table Rock in White City.
“We don’t take these things lightly,” Grant Walker, RCC’s public information officer, told the audience of faculty, Board of Education and community members who attended the Josephine County forum on Feb. 7. “In the end, the decision is about what's best for the students.”
A second forum will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m Feb. 15 in Room 184 on the White City campus, 7800 Pacific Ave.
RCC’s $20-million bond, passed in May 2016 in both counties, set aside $1 million to improve the existing nursing building in Grants Pass and $8 million for the new White City allied health building (allied health refers to all healthcare professions that are not doctors, dentists or nurses). As a separate department, nursing was not part of the original intention for the building.
RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle said college leadership decided to explore integrating facilities for the departments, however, after visiting allied health buildings at other Oregon community colleges. Comparable institutions, she said, all house their nursing and allied health programs together.
The board appears to be considering three options. The first is to stick with the plans for the facilities that the board envisioned when it put its bond to the voters: keeping the nursing program separate from allied health, with students doing practical work at both campuses.
The other two options would move the entirety of the nursing and allied health programs to either the Grants Pass or White City campus. On-campus practical nursing work would be housed in ether Josephine or Jackson County, sharing equipment and spaces with the allied health department.
The school says it wants to offer equal opportunities in both counties. It faces a $15 million difference in bond allocations, however, between its options to move the program.
Beyond the $7-million gap between the bond allocation for the Grants Pass nursing building and the White City allied health building, the Oregon Legislature also matched the $8 million allocation to Jackson County. That brings the total funding available for the White City allied health building to $16 million.
There is a possibility of additional funds being available to Josephine County: the community college received a $3.3-million premium while issuing bonds ― money that has yet to be allocated.
Faculty at the Wednesday forum expressed they were worried about potential disinvestment in Grants Pass if the practical nursing program were moved to White City.
“I’m concerned that changing what these funds are used for … and relocating the nursing program might really disillusion the voters here in Josephine County and it might mean they they’re less inclined to support us in the future,” Tracy Redd, math instructor, said. “There is that feeling of, is Redwood campus being phased out?”
Others said, however, that the discrepancy between the allocations seems to make it impossible to offer the same facilities in Josephine County as in Jackson.
“We’re not going to get what we would get in White City,” Kemper-Pelle said. “It would be a lot nicer than what we have now; there would be additional storage. But it would not be a new building.”
Students interested in nursing would still be able to take prerequisites at any campus.
Linda Wagner, faculty and department chair of nursing, supplied data on the students accepted into the nursing program: over the last three years, 66 to 75 percent were from Jackson County.
The board will vote on whether to move the program to a combined location, and if so, to where, at its Feb. 27 meeting. The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. at 3345 Redwood Highway, room H2, Grants Pass.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.