NEWBERRY — Newberry College’s education program has a new home at the old Speers Street school which is in the process of being renovated to meet 21st century demands.
“We took a building that was designed to teach young children and now we’re teaching the teachers who will teach those children,” said Scott Joyner, vice president for advancement at Newberry College.
The original school was dedicated in 1961 and was in use as an elementary school for decades before shutting down in the mid-2000’s.
The college’s board of trustees bought the property in 2010 with the renovations not actually beginning until earlier this year following several years of fundraising efforts headed by residents Mike and Denise Reid.
Of the building’s two wings, one is still in the works while the other is finished and already hosting classes.
“This has all been done in less than six months,” Joyner said. “It’s been a great process.”
Joyner said project manager West Development has done a “fabulous” job so far and the completed building is set to be showcased on Oct. 15 during homecoming week.
“It’s just really been spruced up a lot,” he said. “When I got here the windows were all shattered and there was graffiti inside.”
The education department was formerly housed in the McClurg Building along with numerous other departments. This relocation will allow them, as well as the departments remaining in McClurg, to expand and improve.
Joyner said eventually the college will be looking to add to their online offerings and maybe even add a master’s in education program which the new Speers Street building could easily house.
The former cafeteria has been converted into a conferencing center, currently utilized for internal functions with the future possibility for public rentals.
And given that the school is located away from the main campus, the renovation plans also included a lounge where students can spend down-time between classes.
“Going forward what we’re trying to do with building renovations and new buildings is try to build new spaces for student lounges,” Joyner said.
The building’s Dufford Diversity Lab is dedicated to Dr. Bill Dufford, whom Joyner said was well known for his opposition to desegregation but later had a complete change of heart and became a prominent ambassador for equal education opportunities for all.
In addition to a large video conference monitor the lab also features a spacious, climate-controlled closet space to be used as an archive housing Dufford-related documents or anything else the college deems to be of historic value.
“This is something the college hasn’t had – a place to keep important documents and materials – because we have stuff that goes back to the Civil War,” Joyner said.
He said there are still opportunities for donors to name rooms and purchase bricks in the Reid Courtyard – or even name the entire building for a cool $1.5 million.
While acquiring Speers Street school represents major growth for the college, don’t expect them to start gobbling up as much land as they can get their hands on.
“We’re always looking to expand the footprint of the campus but we’re going to remain a small, private liberal arts college so there’s no need to have huge chunks of land or anything like that,” Joyner said.
Reach Carson Lambert at 803-276-0625, ext. 1868, or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.