Irvis Science Center opens doors at CCAC |
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Deb Erdley
Rich Betters, CCAC Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, gives a tour of the new Irvis Science Center at the school's North Side campus on Monday, March 25, 2013.

Modern labs and classrooms in a new science center at Community College of Allegheny County could help boost enrollment in the sciences and position students to jump to schools such as the University of Pittsburgh, college officials said on Monday.

The center, named the Irvis Science Center for K. Leroy Irvis, the late speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, opened during a ceremony at CCAC’s Allegheny Campus on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

“For those of you who have been in West Hall, our science building, you realize this is a quantum leap forward,” said Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Richard Betters, as he led a group through a physics lab.

The center originally was slated for completion in 2011, but officials halted construction when a group of non-union contractors sued shortly after the 2009 ground-breaking, challenging provisions in bidding specifications that required contractors to rely heavily on union labor. Construction resumed in June 2011.

Officials said the delay boosted costs from the original estimate of $24.5 million for construction and equipment to $28 million.

Physics professor Gene Ziska, who has taught at the school since 1980, explained that his students will be able to manipulate and use a roof-top observatory from a control room adjacent to the physics lab.

He said officials believe the new labs will bring in more students. “We know the University of Pittsburgh is poised to accept more of our organic classes because they’re being taught here,” Betters said.

The facility includes modern labs and classrooms for programs in biology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy and physical sciences. It marks a major upgrade from the science facilities in West Hall. CCAC will renovate into additional classrooms the 101-year-old former seminary on the other side of Ridge Avenue that has housed the labs for decades.

Classes at the new science center are slated to begin this summer.

College trustees unanimously voted to name the facility after Irvis in 2009. He was instrumental in creating the community college system in 1963. The lawmaker who represented Pittsburgh in the state House from 1959 to 1988 died in 2006 at age 86.

“It’s going to give students who otherwise wouldn’t consider going to community college for science a chance to consider doing their first two years here,” said student body president Ashlee Wolowic, 20, of Crafton.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or [email protected].

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