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UWRF classroom upgrades approved in 3 buildings

Centennial Science Building (foreground) and Kleinpell Fine Arts Building (background, with antenna dishes) will join UW-River Falls' Agriculture Science building in receiving classroom upgrades approved this week by state officials. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia

MADISON — A state commission Monday approved spending $1.556 million to renovate classrooms and labs in three buildings at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Instructional space in Agriculture Science, Centennial Science and Kleinpell Fine Arts buildings will be updated to offer improved learning experiences for students, said Alex Roe, UW Systems' Associate Vice President for Capital Planning and Budget.

In Kleinpell Fine Arts, all or parts of 11 rooms will be combined into a 21-station media laboratory. A new green room and an announcer's booth will be constructed for the television production studio, which also gets new lighting, heating and cooling systems.

Courses in media production, digital film, television, music, and art are taught in several small computer labs that were designed for 1970s era television technology and are now obsolete.

The new media lab will allow course sections of 21 students to be trained on computer platforms that feature up-to-date digital media software and hardware.

Agriculture Science will have the only animal physiology lab on campus renovated and the geology lab remodeled into an active learning classroom. The building is 53-years-old and

hasn't seen renovation except for replacing some workstations, about 15 years ago, according

to the university.

A classroom in Centennial Science Hall will be remodeled into a lab/classroom.

The UW System has $10 million in the current biennium to spend on classroom renovation.

When a campus requests a renovation project, it also conducts an assessment of the learning

space's utilization and condition, so the money goes to classrooms that have or will have the highest use, Roe said.

"If a classroom has a utilization rate of 60 to 80%, then yes, we want to spend money on it," she said.

In a longer range look at campus facilities, the UW System completed a multi-department master plan for UW-RF last year, focusing on agriculture and science, technology, engineering and math to assess the condition of the facilities and also project future growth in enrollment and faculty.

UW-RF boasts having the nation's largest undergraduate dairy program, and those students and other agriculture students have to take science and math courses. The campus looked at the several buildings that will serve the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and devised a capital improvement plan for their future. A master plan had already been prepared for the university's two lab farms.

"It will be serval bienniums before we can address all those building needs but we've worked with the look at all the necessary improvements the campus needs to become what it

is that they want to become," she said.

The commission's action Monday is the final approval needed to begin bidding and renovating the classrooms in Kleinpell, Agriculture Science and Centennial Science halls.

The commission also approved spending $2.814 million, including $1.956 million in cash from services, to add fuel oil as a backup heating system for the campus' heating plant.

Each UW campus is or has replaced coal as an energy source for its heating needs due to UW

System concerns about the environmental consequences of burning coal and disposal of coal

ash. Every campus is required to have a 72-hour alternative fuel supply in the event of a natural gas outage.

This project installs new fuel oil burners and controls for the natural gas-fired boilers, storage for

about 25,000 gallons of fuel oil and removal of coal burning equipment.

Work is to begin in March 2020 and be completed in December 2021.