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Joliet Junior College officials propose new location for Morris Education Center

New location would offer more classrooms, opportunities

JOLIET – A potential new location for the Joliet Junior College Morris Education Center was proposed to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday. 

Instead of having the center, which opened in August 2001, at its location at 1715 N. Division St., Morris, it would be at the soon-to-be empty Shabbona Middle School, about a mile away. 

The new location would offer cost savings, an enhanced image for the college and bring growth and partnership opportunities, said Caroline Portlock, JJC workforce development director. 

Portlock and Marsha McCormick, JJC extended campuses and high school relations director, presented the proposal to the board at Tuesday’s workshop meeting. 

“Part of the reason is because we have a great opportunity to increase and enhance the image that JJC has with the Morris Education Center,” Portlock said. 

“Some of you may know about the challenges we’ve had at our current site and it has been a difficult process, I will say, in order to provide what we would consider [a] world-class education for the community,” she said. 

Later in the meeting, Portlock said each semester students are surveyed and they are asked what classes they want to take. She said as a newcomer and somebody passionate about Grundy County, it has been disheartening to see enrollment numbers decline. 

“I think part of it is that we need to make the commitment that if we schedule a class, we’re going to run a class. …The reality is, our word should be our word,” she said. 

Portlock said Shabbona Middle School is slated to be empty by the end of the summer. 

The location would be closer to the Grundy Area Vocational Center and Morris Community High School, offer ease of access and parking, a tutoring and testing area, six classrooms and two computer labs, according to the proposal. 

“So essentially two times the amount of space that we have right now,” Portlock said. 

The new location would give room for expansion of courses, programs and the student population. Revenue projections at the new location would increase for the next three school years, from $84,600 to $169,200. 

Projected enrollment figures for the next three school years presented to the board showed the Morris Education Center would increase from 300 to 600 students. The number of classrooms would increase from four to eight – and computer labs from one to two – as the Morris Education Center has more access to Shabbona Middle School. 

Board Vice Chairman Andrew Mihelich said he wanted to see a projection of total costs so trustees could examine the proposal from a “balance sheet” perspective. 

“Before I can support the new Morris Education Center, I would need to see the specific course offerings and the number that would be needed so that classes run to cover the expenses,” he said. 

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