Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

The central Manzanita building at Columbia College will be mostly out of commission as it undergoes $9 million in renovations next semester.

The project is the latest expenditure from Measure E - a $326 million bond measure passed in 2004 for Yosemite Community College District.

The bond is for both of the district's colleges - Columbia and Modesto - for repair, upgrade and new construction on their campuses as well as expansion into Angels Camp, Oakdale, Turlock and Patterson.

The Manzanita remodel will be the costliest bond expense for Columbia College since the school's $17.9 million Science and Natural Resources building, Sugarpine, was completed in 2011.

The remodel includes an entirely new floorplan for the upper story and replaces utilities and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems downstairs.

The Manzanita building contains the college's administrative offices and various student services including financial aid and counseling, as well as a Rotunda, which is a central hub and hosts rotating displays.

The Manzanita renovation is outlined in the college's Facilities Master Plan, which has been developed over time and has included input from faculty, staff and students, according to Judy Lanchester, assistant director of facilities, planning and operations.

Bond money is going to projects following the same timeline of priorities set in the plan, she said.

Part of the Manzanita overhaul will include the building's electrical and communications systems. Designed and built before the Internet age, faculty members have complained of technical shortcomings.

Lanchester said the new floorplan will ease the flow of student services, making clearer and closer connections from one service to another.

Although the direct amount of space serving as a Rotunda is set to shrink about one-third, it will now include an open meeting area with more tables at which students can congregate. That area is attached via a collapsible wall to another room to serve together for large meetings or events.

The changes are all pending Division of the State Architect approval, and could change, Lanchester said.

Construction is planned for March.

The student services, however, are transitioning for the semester into swing space throughout the campus. The Sequoia building, nearly finished being remodeled itself, will hold most of the services until completion of the Manzanita's upgrades, slated for December 2015.

Sequoia was also remodeled with bond money on a budget of $1.3 million. It will be primarily a math building.

Sequoia's math focus, like Sugarpine's science and natural resource focus, is a move to a "node" layout - keeping subjects together geographically - that the master plan pushes the college toward, Lanchester said.

Also recently renovated was the Redbud building, which will primarily house nursing classes. It was actually done with part of MJC's share of the bond money - much higher due to its population - because its nursing students go to Columbia.

The building now has eight beds for simulated care and a computer lab which will include live web instruction from MJC. It was budgeted at $25.3 million, trumping any of Columbia's own bond projects.

With the node theme, students will find more of their instructor's offices in the same buildings their classes are.

This includes adjunct instructors, whose former shared office space will be taken by the Academic Achievement Center - the college's peer tutor program. The AAC is now in the top floor of the Tamarack building, which houses the library. The AAC is the only student service permanently leaving Manzanita in the remodel.

One program not leaving nor being remodeled is the culinary program, on the bottom floor of Manzanita. The culinary program - which has been featured in magazines and used to operate a restaurant in Columbia State Historic Park - will receive electrical and utility upgrades in the Manzanita remodel.

That's because the Facilities Master Plan actually has the culinary program in its own building in the future, Lanchester said. It also cannot be temporarily displaced, given its use of ovens and approved food-preparation areas.

The culinary program is not slated for bond money, but Lanchester said she was hopeful it could receive something if the college continues to save.

"Everything so far has been on time and under budget," she said last week.

Columbia's satellite facilities are still being planned, with $4 million budgeted for a Calaveras site and $1 million for an Oakdale site.