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Plans for New Living and Learning Community

Albany, GA | July 11, 2022 – Phoebe and Albany Technical College (ATC) are planning a transformative project that will breathe new life into the former Albany High School building on North Jefferson St. and dramatically expand the pipeline of new nurse graduates in the region.

“We are going to create a living and learning community that will continue the historic location’s legacy as a place of education and allow Albany Technical College to quadruple the size of its nursing program,” said Scott Steiner, Phoebe Putney Health System President & CEO.

The project will include new construction in the same footprint as the old school, directly across the street from Phoebe’s main hospital.  The 47,000 square foot first floor will be home to ATC’s nursing program and will include telehealth-enhanced classrooms, a health career education center, meeting rooms, library/resource center and other amenities.  In addition to students seeking associate of nursing degrees, students in ATC’s accelerated nurse aide, phlebotomy and practical nursing programs will also take classes there.  The second and third floors of the building will include 80 apartments to provide affordable housing for nursing students.

“Before his recent passing, our president, Dr. Anthony Parker, spent the better part of a year planning for and spearheading this project.  He believed it would revolutionize Albany Tech’s ability to train nurses and other health professionals and have an enormous positive impact on our community and our region’s economy,” said Emmett Griswold, Ed.D, Albany Technical College Interim President.  “This project will be one of Dr. Parker’s enduring legacies, and we hope the community will support our effort to move forward with it in his honor,” Dr. Griswold added.

As part of the project, Phoebe is boosting its investment in ATC’s nursing program, allowing the school to hire more faculty so it can accept more students.  “This year, we had 54 students in our associate of nursing program.  We will increase that number to 200 by fall of 2024.  That is an aggressive goal, but it is one we can meet,” Dr. Griswold said.  “Right now, there are more students interested in our nursing program than we can accept because we simply do not have enough qualified instructors or classroom space.  This enhanced partnership with Phoebe will change that.”

That partnership will not impact any of Phoebe’s investments with other colleges in the region.  “We have many outstanding education partners, and we will continue to look for ways to enhance those affiliations.  Over the last few years, Phoebe has hired 85% of nursing graduates from Albany Tech – far more than any other school – so helping their program grow will have the most immediate impact as we work to address the nursing shortage in multiple ways,” said Tracy Suber, EdD, Phoebe Vice President for Education.

Phoebe will pay the entire cost of the $40 million construction project.  Steiner said that significant investment is both wise and necessary and will pay off quickly.  “Even before the pandemic, the amount we were paying for contract nurses was unsustainable, and COVID made that problem exponentially worse for Phoebe and every other hospital in the country,” Steiner said.

By increasing the available pipeline of nurses, if Phoebe can shift 140 contract nurse positions to full-time employed nurses, the project could pay for itself in one year.  “We appreciate the fine travel nurses who choose to come to our community for a few months at a time, but we want more nurses who will buy houses and join churches and call this place home.  It’s good for our community.  It’s good for people looking for meaningful careers in southwest Georgia.  And it will allow Phoebe to take some of the money we’re currently sending to contract staffing agencies and keep it here to invest in enhanced healthcare services for the people we serve,” Steiner said.

The project will preserve the entrance to the old school, return the original look of some of the windows that were covered up over the decades and include many architectural elements of the building.  “Construction experts have told us the cost to renovate and preserve the entire building would be substantially more than the cost of our project.  Additionally, renovation would not allow us to add a third floor and create a building that meets the needs of Phoebe, Albany Tech and our community,” Steiner said.

He stressed that the builders will save original materials and utilize elements of the building as much as possible.  “We understand the school building is important to many people in our community.  To ensure we respect the history of the site, we consulted with a group of more than 20 formers students and hosted a listening session to get their input.  They are excited about the project and overwhelmingly support it,” Steiner said.

The plans include an area at the main the entrance highlighting the history of the building which served as Albany High School from 1925-1953, Albany Junior High School until the mid-80s and Albany Middle School until 2000.  In 2002, the Dougherty County School System deeded the property to Phoebe which created an education center and an employee wellness center on part of the property.

Phoebe and ATC leaders will present their living and learning community plan to the Albany-Dougherty Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).  They say the project on the busy Jefferson Street corridor will tie in well with downtown redevelopment efforts and encourage other business and residential development in the area.

“We look forward to working with the HPC and city leaders to move this project forward quickly.  In order to move our nursing program into this state-of-the art new facility by fall of 2024, the first floor of the project must be complete for accreditors to survey and approve by January 2024.  We’re on a tight timeline, but we can get it done,” Dr. Griswold said.  “This truly is an amazing and unique project that will have so many benefits for our community, and we’re ready to get started.”