Central Delaware
Wesley opens Health Sciences building
Wesley College opened the new Wesley College Health Sciences building in Dover to faculty and staff on Monday. Here senior nursing students Kaprie Koelle (checking pulse) and Jessica Martin work with Margie McElligott (seated), nursing instructor and simulation coordinator, on a human patient simulator who is suffering from cardiac issues. (Wesley College/Jessica Cook)

DOVER — Even with papers and books strewn over a 10-person table and multiple chalk boards and filing cabinets, the room where Wesley College nursing professor Nancy Rubino and her three senior nursing students were working felt spacious.

“It’s a lot better,” said Taylor Matthews, a student from Philadelphia, on the size of the new building. “There’s much more room to breathe.”

Which is the point.

Almost five years in the making, Wesley College opened its new Health Sciences building to students and faculty on Monday. Located on South New Street in what used to be called the Frear Federal Building, it will house the college’s growing nursing department.

“This has been a whole community effort,” said an excited Dr. William Johnston, Wesley College president, in the newly renovated lobby. “We’re just so excited and happy to be here.”

The school first became aware of the 38-year-old building’s availability in April 2009, after the federal government announced it would be declared surplus property. Priority to take over the building went to other federal agencies, then to state agencies and public nonprofits.

In September 2010, Wesley submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Education for the building and officially got the keys to the building in December 2012.

The estimated cost of the building is $3.6 million, but Wesley acquired the approximately 36,000-square-foot building on South New Street at no cost because it qualified for a Public Benefit Allowance discount due to its focus on education. The estimated cost of renovations, which started in July 2013, was $2.2 million.

The nursing department used to be located in the 5,500-square-foot Dulany Hall and only had one classroom. The first floor of the new building will house general classrooms, while the college’s growing nursing program will have nursing and simulation classrooms on the second floor.

Dr. Robert Contino, professor of nursing and department chair, said the new building will attract more students to the college because they’ll be able to show them a state-of-the-art facility.

We’re moving from one classroom to having four classrooms, a clinical lab, an assessment lab, a critical care area and a home health area, Dr. Contino said, adding that on Sunday he was both excited and nervous to finally be in the new building.

Initial reactions from students were all positive, and summed up well by sophomore nursing student Frank Fiorella, who thought the new building looked amazing.

“What an upgrade. I was shocked when I walked in,” he said. “It’s legit.”

Staff writer Chris Flood can be reached at 741-8230 or