Donors along with Cox College employees and students took turns swinging a sledge hammer at a wall Monday to begin an estimated 18-month project to completely renovate the school at Cox North.
"Today is Demo Day. This is the day the construction begins," Lisa Alexander, president of the CoxHealth Foundation, told the crowd gathered on the college's third floor.
She said the project was "100 precent funded through philanthropy."
After the $6.9 million renovation is complete, Cox College hopes to receive permission from the Missouri State Board of Nursing to increase the number of nursing students it is allowed to accept from 250 to 400. The college’s president, Dr. Amy DeMelo, said there’s a “tremendous nursing shortage in Springfield,” and they hope to help fill that need.
The renovation will include new classrooms and student space to accomodate future growth, according to DeMelo.
The college offers programs in nursing, occupational therapy, radiography and nutrition.
The building it’s in is old. One hundred students began living on the current campus in 1956, and the Fountain Plaza Room was the original lounge. Classes are held in what once were dorm rooms.
Ellen Duvall attended Demo Day. The Cox volunteer retired from Cox College where she was a faculty member and is excited to see the building get new life. "I saw the drawings for the new lobby area," she said. "This area, back then, (referring to the third floor), all of this was dorm." She said the third, fourth and seventh floors were dorms, and the school itself used to be in the basement.
DeMelo was happy to see this day come.
"As you're trying to educate students in a dorm, that poses its challenges," she said, "so we are so happy to have the classroom space and really an updated look and feel of the college that looks more representative of a higher education building."
Adam Bock, an occupational therapy student at Cox College, will likely have graduated when the renovations are complete, but he's excited about the project. "I know we're a growing program and to see the school expand and, you know, make this kind of progress really means a lot," he said. "It seems like we're building up to being bigger and better."
Classes will not be interrupted during the renovations.
According to CoxHealth, while the most of the college will be completely renovated, several aspects of its history, including the historic George Kieffer “Helping Hands” mural, have been integrated into the new design.