Nursing Students Pioneer New EG Campus of New England Tech
By January, more than 1,100 students will be taking classes at the Division Road building, which is still under renovation.
They don't have to wear hard hats, but the 75 nursing students who are taking classes at the East Greenwich campus of New England Tech are trailblazers in a building that remains largely a construction site.
These students won't be alone much longer. The campus is set to open to an additional 1,100 students on January 3, including those in information technology, surgical technology, and physical and occupational therapies.
"We've been working toward this for a long time," said Philip Parsons, vice president and general counsel for NEIT.
Anyone driving by the former Brooks building at 1408 Division Road can be forgiven for not realizing the extent of the changes taking place inside. After all, the front exterior looks much like it did back when it was built for Brooks in 2006.
But on the inside, what had been built as a corporate headquarters for a major pharmacy chain has morphed over the years from office spaces and cubicles to classrooms, labs, and student meeting areas. It was hardly an easy transition, said Parsons.
"We gutted it down to the studs," he said. "We took out about 400,000 pounds of stuff out and recycled all of it."
While much of the building is still a hard-hat zone, on the third floor the applied arts wing was complete enough by October for some of the nursing classes to be moved over from the Post Road campus in Warwick.
Along with more traditional classroom space, the wing has several mock-hospital settings, including a nursing simulation room, complete with life-like practice mannequins, and two operating rooms with an adjoining scrub room.
The nursing simulation room looks like a traditional recovery room, with several "patients" in beds. Students can assess the patients, take their vital signs and administer care and everything they do is videotaped for later analysis in an adjacent conference room.
"The lab's great," said Sonia Suell, referring to the simulation room. "It's so spacious."
The cafeteria isn't slated to open until summer, but students have found several nearby spots to ease their hunger and thirst. In particular, they mentioned Panera Bread, Dave's Marketplace and Dunkin Donuts.
Students will move into the other side of the building next summer. But, according to school officials, another building is already in the works.
There isn't enough room for the heating, plumbing, refrigeration, air conditioning and building construction classes. At this point, plans for a new building are in the preliminary stages. Officials said it will be a year and a half or more before any work starts.
Right now, there are a few faculty members and staff working at the East Greenwich campus along with lots of construction workers. The ratio of New England Tech employee to construction worker will gradually shift in the coming months. By July, according to Parsons, there will be more than 300 employees (both faculty and staff).
The number of students taking classes in East Greenwich by July will be is expected to be around 2,250. Parsons noted that the school has four sessions a day, so the number of employees and students will shift throughout the day.
The busiest time at the campus will be morning into early afternoon, with about 1,375 people. The smallest number of people at the campus for classes will be the late afternoon session, about 675 people. The number of people on campus for classes during evening session will be about 1,000.
Although a lot of work has had to be done on the Division Road building, Parsons said it's been worth it.
While NEIT is obviously spending money to update and expand its facilities, according to Parsons, taking over the Brooks building has been cheaper than to build from scratch. He said they were spending $150 a square foot on the renovation versus what typically would cost $350 a square foot for new construction.
"But for the economy, we never would not have been able to buy this building and the land," said Parsons.
Correction: This story has been amended from its original version to more accurately reflect the number of students who will be attending the New England Tech campus starting in January. The original version said there would be 450. In fact, there will be some 1,100. At the busiest time of the day — in the morning — there will be 450 students at NEIT.