Eventual campus in Columbia County not ruled out, spokeswoman says

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Attendees at a public forum at Scappoose High School on Tuesday, June 10, place stickers on a poster to indicate their preferences for the proposed Portland Community College center in Columbia County.A spokeswoman for Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus said a pair of public forums held earlier this month in Scappoose and St. Helens confirmed that both communities have very similar desires and goals for a PCC presence in south Columbia County.

Janis Nichols, community relations manager for PCC Rock Creek, said of the Scappoose and St. Helens attendees, “I think they asked a lot of the same questions, and I think they made many of the same suggestions.”

Nichols added, “I was struck by how similar both Scappoose and St. Helens comments were. They were mirror images of each other, almost. ... Clearly the people in the county are thinking the same way, and they’re asking for the same thing.”

PCC is planning to build an educational center in south Columbia County, with the goal of offering programs in the county by 2017.

The form that center takes depends to a large extent on public input, Nichols said.

“If we can’t figure out what courses to offer, the people in Columbia County won’t come to the center,” said Nichols. “The people have to tell us what their greatest needs are, and then we have to figure out how to deliver those needs.”

Nichols acknowledged that some people have dreams of a greater PCC presence in Columbia County. A PowerPoint presentation by a group from the American Institute of Architects that visited St. Helens last month suggested that a community college campus could be built on land that is currently part of the Boise white paper mill property south of Old Portland Road.

“We had a lot of people at both open forums mention the fact that they have a dream of a full campus in Columbia County. And we would hope for that,” Nichols said. “A lot of campuses start with one building.”

Nichols said about 30 people attended the Scappoose forum Tuesday, June 10, and more than 40 attended the forum in St. Helens the following day.

Many people who weighed in on questions PCC posed about what type of classes and services they would like to see a Columbia County center offer said they would prefer evening classes, technical education and career planning services, according to Nichols.

PCC is planning another visit to Columbia County in October.

Nichols did not offer details about where PCC intends to build its Columbia County center beyond saying that “several sites are being considered.” The community college is thought to be looking at potential locations in both Scappoose and St. Helens.

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