Butte College still standing tall
Recovering from wildfire, the campus keeps growing
The continuation of construction, some economic changes and the recent fires have all had an impact on Butte College. As far as positive vs. negative effects, though, the results vary.
The Humboldt Fire raged through Butte County in early summer, burning through more than 22,000 acres. Butte College went from a staging area for firefighters to a scene of their frantic work. The campus was closed temporarily, and flames threatened to shut the doors permanently. But fire crews kept the blaze from spreading to structures, so the central campus was saved.
The fire did leave a mark, though. Butte College is a wildlife preserve, habitat for many species of plants and animals. It is not uncommon to find deer as well as squirrels and other animals around campus at any given time. Many fled the area to escape the flames.
“The fires affected the habitats of the animals in the area and shifted their population,” said Michael Miller, director of Facilities Planning and Management. “A lot of the deer are back in the area, though. This morning, I saw a deer grazing. They are coming back around.”
As for the scorched earth that surrounds the college, Miller said: “We’re going to leave it in the shape it’s in and let it recover naturally.”
At the height of the Humboldt Fire, some 3,800 firefighters and personnel settled throughout the campus. When the Butte Lightning Complex fires ignited weeks later, Butte College opened a wing of the school used for hospital training to serve as an evacuation center.
With the smoke cleared, the college is bracing for another challenge: budget numbers.
Community college enrollment levels have been rising, and Butte is right in line with the trend, experiencing 6.5 percent growth last year (21,833 students, compared to 20,504 in 2006-07). The Community College Times reported that most state directors of community colleges say enrollment caps and tuition increases at public universities “are pushing students to public two-year colleges.”
While that’s a good thing on one hand, allocations from the California state budget are not expected to keep pace with that rise in attendance.
Meanwhile, growth of another sort continues, with new construction on campus.
Two of the projects are a new arts facility and a new Student Services building. The arts center will include labs for music, drawing, jewelry, sculpture, painting, ceramics and photography, as well as a 180-seat theater and computer graphics labs. The student services structure will house counseling, financial aid, admissions and records, disabled student programs, a welcome center, transfer center, career center and more.
As part of the improvements funded by Measure A bond money, Butte College has also remodeled its library, adding 32,000 square feet to accommodate distance education classes, Butte College TV, a media services center, a computer lab, 13 “smart classrooms” and study rooms.