New $39 million Oakton science and health building open for classes

 
 
Posted1/31/2015 7:43 AM
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  • Oakton Community College's new $39 million Science and Health Careers Center has officially opened for classes.

      Oakton Community College's new $39 million Science and Health Careers Center has officially opened for classes. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Oakton Biology Professor Kristi Zenchak instructs student Pawel Wiech of Des Plaines during an anatomy and physiology class this week at the new Science and Health Careers Center in Des Plaines.

      Oakton Biology Professor Kristi Zenchak instructs student Pawel Wiech of Des Plaines during an anatomy and physiology class this week at the new Science and Health Careers Center in Des Plaines. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Students gather between classes at the new Science and Health Careers Center at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines.

      Students gather between classes at the new Science and Health Careers Center at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. photos by Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Anatomical human figures are among the lab features in the new Science and Health Careers Center at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines.

      Anatomical human figures are among the lab features in the new Science and Health Careers Center at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The $39 million Margaret Burke Lee Science and Health Careers Center has opened at Oakton Community College -- the culmination of the largest construction project since the Des Plaines campus opened in 1980.

Students have been attending classes in lecture halls and doing experiments in the new laboratories since the spring semester began Jan. 20.

The three-story, 93,000-square-foot building is home to Oakton's anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, earth science, medical laboratory technology, nursing, physics, and physical therapy assistant programs.

"We had space (before), but it was very confined. Now we have a lot more space," said Kristi Zenchak, a biology professor. "Obviously the hope is we can accommodate more students because these fields are booming now. Now we can spread out and offer a better facility to do what we're all trying to do, which is educate our students."

Zenchak's 24-person human anatomy and physiology class was among the first classes to get into the new labs this week.

The new classrooms and labs allow instructors to have more interaction with students because of the design of the rooms, she said.

For instance, lab tables are now on islands scattered throughout the room instead of long tables off to the side.

The building on the east side of campus is the marquee project in Oakton's $68.5 million, five-year Facilities Master Plan, adopted by college trustees in December 2010.

College trustees voted unanimously last year to name the building after college President Margaret Lee, who plans to retire in June after 30 years at Oakton -- the last 20 as president.

Construction began in April 2012, and the building was supposed to be ready for classes last summer. But ground settlement issues with a slab at the west end of the building, as well as weather, delayed its opening until this month.

Crews demolished the cracking concrete slab and replaced it -- a cost covered by the project's 10 percent contingency budget.

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