WESLEY CHAPEL — With the arrival of students still nearly a week away, the atmosphere was quiet Tuesday on Pasco-Hernando Community College's soon-to-open Wesley Chapel campus.
That doesn't mean the place was inactive. Construction crews and staff members were still putting finishing touches on the new facility that formally is known as the Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch.
Copiers were hauled upstairs by elevator. Workers installed a wooden banister in the two-story library. Technology staff tested equipment. Yellow tape blocked off sections of the parking garage.
Despite the unfinished look, Provost Stan Giannet said the campus — the fifth for PHCC — will be ready when students report Monday morning for the first day of classes.
“The staff has been working feverishly to get everything operational,” Giannet said.
That doesn't mean that all the preparation work will come to a halt. Giannet expects the campus to remain an active construction area into February, but classrooms are functional and students should have everything they need as the campus embarks on its inaugural semester, he said.
So far, 1,400 students have registered for the spring.
The 60-acre Wesley Chapel campus is on Mansfield Boulevard, next to Wiregrass Ranch High School, and includes six buildings. Four of those are connected and sit atop the multilevel parking garage that has nearly 500 spaces. The campus also has an overflow parking lot with about 300 spaces.
The 116,000-square-foot facility also features 10 classrooms, four computer labs, four science labs, eight health labs, a library, a college store and a conference center, among other amenities.
The new campus provides a previously unavailable option for potential community college students in the south central part of the county, who in the past had to travel to PHCC campuses in New Port Richey or Dade City, or head south to Hillsborough Community College.
“Wesley Chapel is growing,” Giannet said. “We are excited about being here in the forefront of that growth.”
The faculty reports to work today, but many have already moved into their offices and several administrators were on campus Tuesday as they continued to make preparations and enjoyed their new surroundings.
“I think it's a beautiful facility,” said Natalie Epo, the teaching-learning center coordinator who transferred from the Brooksville campus. “We're excited to be here.”
The teaching-learning center provides assistance, including free tutoring, to students struggling with their academics, Epo said.
Meanwhile, in the student development office, staff members led by Assistant Dean Pam Medley checked to make sure computers and other equipment worked. The student development area should soon be abuzz with activity because that's where any future class registration will happen and where financial aid and admissions questions can be answered.
Helping students become more involved in the non-classroom aspects of college life, such as clubs and community service events, will be Amber Watson, the student activities director. Sometime within the first month, she said, the students will elect student government officers.
Throughout the campus, there are plenty of spots for students to gather, chat with friends, take a rest between classes or plug in electronic devices.
“We want the students to stay connected with one another and their campus,” Giannet said.