Remodeling of former middle school to resume soon

HANCOCK – Renovation work on the former Hancock Middle School has paused for now, but is expected to pick up again in the spring.

Curt Hahka, Finlandia University’s director of facilities, said a new fire warning system, which includes strobe lights, alarms and emergency lighting, is completed in the building.

“It’s up to fire code now,” Hahka said.

In 2009, Finlandia received the building, which opened in 1923 as Hancock High School, and the former Condon Field, now McAfee Field, in exchange for providing Hancock Central High School graduates who qualify to attend the university with tuition remission.

The building will eventually house classrooms for the university’s College of Health Sciences.

“We’re into this for about half a million (dollars) so far,” he said.

Hahka said OHM Architects, Engineers and Planners in Hancock is doing the engineering for the renovations of the building.

It’s hoped work can begin on the classrooms on the third and fourth floors in the spring, Hahka said, but it depends on when funding can be found for the work.

“We’ve been hitting a little bit of this at a time,” he said. “We’re looking at getting the rooms up to par.”

New carpeting and new windows are planned for the third- and fourth-floor classrooms, Hahka said.

Besides the fire warning system, Hahka said the building’s roof was recently re-covered with a fire resistant material. New seats were installed in 2012 in the second-floor auditorium, and more seating is planned. It’s uncertain what, if anything, will be done to the gymnasium, also on the second floor. There is a small kitchen next to the gym. The auditorium, gym and kitchen can all eventually be used for community events. There could possibly be a storefront on the second floor, also.

Hahka said Finlandia President Philip Johnson would like the partial coverings currently on the building’s windows removed to provide a full view from inside the building.

“We’re looking at doing whatever it takes to make (the facade) fit its era,” he said.

On the third and fourth floors, Hahka said there will be separate, stand-alone heating systems.

“We’re looking at upgrading from steam to a hot water system,” he said.

It was hoped classes would have started already in the building, but Hahka said work is slowed by lack of funding.

“We wanted to be farther along then we are,” he said.

Fredi DeYampert, Finlandia vice president for academic affairs, said the plan is to move classes from the main campus gradually.

The physical therapist assistant and medical assistant programs would move first, and the nursing program would be last. There will be small, medium and large-sized classrooms to fit the needs of particular classes.

When the move will start isn’t certain, however, DeYampert said.

“It’s unknown at this time,” she said.