College of the Canyons receives almost $400,000 for science building renovations

Assemblywoman Christy Smith, Chancellor Dianne Van Hook and Senator Scott Wilk celebrated their work to get almost $400,000 in bond money for the College of the Canyons on Monday. Matt Fernandez

After several years of waiting and advocacy, College of the Canyons received almost $400,000 in bond funds from the state of California on Monday morning, and the college plans to use the funds to renovate aging science classrooms.

According to COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook, the $397,000 that the school received comes from Proposition 51, the 2016 statewide facilities construction bond. However, then-Gov. Jerry Brown refused to release the money. Since then the college and politicians like Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, had been fighting for the state to release the funds.

“Senator Wilk and Assemblywoman Smith have been putting pressure on the governor’s office to release those funds to us, and it’s not like they’re doing anything untoward since the voters approved that years ago,” Van Hook said. “It’s a relief to get the money now.”

Vice President of Facilities Jim Schrage said the money will go toward renovating the 45-year-old Boykin Hall science classrooms.

“All three floors are going to be renovated,” Schrage said. “Over the years some of the floors have had renovations but some parts, like two of the chemistry labs, have never been touched in 45 years. We’ll also be getting a seismic upgrade since it’s a poured-in-place concrete building from the ’70s.”

Wilk said Brown’s reluctance to release the funds largely stemmed from his disagreement with the bond measure’s funding formula, but Gov. Gavin Newsom is much more willing to support the educational funding.

“Technology and science are extremely important so that we can remain competitive with nations like China, and we’re at the point where every person is competing economically with everyone in the world, so we have to make investments like this in the next generation to make them ready for mortgage-paying jobs,” WIlk said. “The California community college system is the largest educational institution in the world with 2.3 million students and it’s a huge economic driver for the state. Our new governor is enthusiastic about this and as a member of the state allocation board we’ll keep working to push out these funds that already exist.”

Smith, herself a College of the Canyons alumna, said the release of the bond money was one of her top priorities for California’s budget.

“Our community at every level has been supportive of these education bonds because the college uses the public’s investment of those resources very wisely to develop both this campus and the Canyon Country location to serve the rapidly growing student population in Santa Clarita and the surrounding communities,” Smith said. “As an alumni of this school it’s incredible to be able to come back and bring resources to the school that has meant so much in my development. We know that these are emerging fields and we need to be able to train folks in science, technology, engineering and math, so to be able to upgrade these facilities is phenomenal.”

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