Former COA president's house given temporary reprieve


College of The Albemarle trustees have granted the college's former president's residence, shown Aug. 23, 2017, a temporary reprieve from the wrecking ball. The college's nursing program has asked to use the facility.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Friday, August 24, 2018

The former president’s house at College of The Albemarle has received a temporary reprieve from the wrecking ball as college officials consider whether it can be re-purposed as a simulation lab for nursing and other health sciences programs.

The COA Board of Trustees asked for more information about the condition of the house at its meeting on Tuesday, indicating it plans to make a final decision on the structure at the board’s October meeting.

After a year or more of discussion, trustees voted earlier this year to demolish the house, which is located at the back of the campus on a canal that leads to the Pasquotank River. Former President Kandi Deitemeyer used the house as a primary residence but current President Robert Wynegar does not live in it.

There have been concerns about the condition of the house, mostly related to mold, and after Deitemeyer left at the end of 2016 to head Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte trustees decided not to continue using the structure as a presidential residence.

Various options for using the house were considered last year by the trustees’ Building and Grounds Committee before the board finally voted in February of this year to raze the building.

But the demolition has not yet started and the house now has received what Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Roger Lambertson — an outspoken critic of demolishing the house — referred to Tuesday as a temporary stay of execution.

Board of Trustees Chairman Marion Harris said the board needs additional information about the condition of the house in order to reverse the decision to demolish it. Staff agreed to present that information to the Building and Grounds Committee in time for trustees to make a decision in October.

Trustees’ reconsideration of the building’s future comes as new rules governing nursing education have been released by the State Board of Nursing. The new rules require, among other things, that simulation exercises used to train nursing students be as realistic and faithful to real word settings as possible.

It’s extremely difficult to meet the simulation requirements right now because of space limitations in the college’s Zack Owens Health Sciences Building, according to Robin Harris, director of health sciences programs at COA.

Harris told trustees that the nursing program needs roughly the floor space of the first floor of the former president’s house to provide simulations in accordance with the accepted standards for nursing education. A simulation lab is needed for nursing and other health sciences programs, she said.

COA’s nursing program, which has been recognized as among the best in the state, continues to be accredited, but the school has been told that it must update its nursing simulation process in order to meet newer accreditation standards, according to Harris. The program is probably at “a minimum level of meeting those regulations” right now, she said.

The estimated cost of the renovations needed for using the house as a health sciences simulation lab is between $40,000 and $50,000, Harris said. The nursing program has set aside some money for that purpose, she added.

Harris said she had looked at other options such as using off-site space for a lab, but those options didn’t seem feasible.

Trustees briefly floated the idea Tuesday of redirecting $1.4 million in NC Connect Bond money from the proposed maintenance and records storage facility to a new simulation lab for health sciences programs.

COA President Wynegar said Wednesday that redirecting the funds would require resubmitting paperwork to the State Board of Community Colleges, but could be a possibility.

But the bond money would not be enough to add a wing to the Owens Building, which is what is really needed to accommodate the new Board of Nursing standards and the growth of COA’s health sciences program, Wynegar said.

The ideal solution, Wynegar said, would be to find a generous donor to support the construction of a new wing.