One year after the open house, the Community Learning Center continues to grow and evolve | Sun News

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KENDALLVILLE – A year ago, residents of Kendallville had their first chance to walk the halls of the former East Noble Middle School.

Many have marveled at the progress made in just a few months in transforming aging hallways and classrooms once filled with teens and teens into something new, fresh and – perhaps most surprising to some – new. modern and fancy.

At the Community Learning Center Open House in January 2020, people got a first glimpse of how an old school could be given a second life.

Then, in March, came the pandemic.

All the things the CLC was designed for – classroom learning, vocational training, arts and cultural programming, and public events ranging from lecture series to Gaslight Playhouse performances – were suddenly the kind of thing that weren’t recommended.

The CLC was much quieter in 2020 than one might originally expect on this ambitious open house. But, in hindsight, the disruptions of the pandemic may not have all been mitigated to no avail.

“In some ways, it allowed us to slow down and think about our space and our programming,” said Julia Tipton, Executive Director of CLC.

It’s been almost two years since East Noble handed over the keys to their old college and about a year and a half since construction began in earnest to renovate the building.

But a 130,000 square foot building doesn’t tip over overnight. As you walk through the building with Tipton, you will find the building in a three phase state of existence.

The first phase, the things that were already packed or in progress at that open house a year ago, are finished and used.

Quilting and Sewing Room, Cooking Classes in the Upgraded Kitchen, Pickeball, Fitness Classes, and School Gym Programs in the Gymnasium and Auditorium are ready and in mixed use states, depending of what they would normally welcome.

Sewing groups safely come together to knit, sew and design, and the CLC’s cooking classes were an early success. Now that the weather has changed, local pickleball fans have brought their paddles back inside the field. And those who want to learn the guitar still had the chance to strum during the lessons.

Big productions have been a no-no during the pandemic, so the box office window outside the auditorium is empty and the theater stage has remained silent for the year, in hopes that 2021 could. bring a return to normal.

The reception hall, with its tiled floor, sophisticated lighting, rolling freezer and a glass-topped serving table made from a repurposed marimba, is one of the breathtaking places in the CLC and has hosted lunches in the past. – talks and other small meetings and public events.

The CLC has by no means been empty, maybe just a little quieter than it otherwise would have been.

“Our dedicated programmers have been very patient with the pandemic,” Tipton said.

But a quieter, less crowded building isn’t always a downside, especially when moving into Phase 2, where active construction is still underway.

Construction crews are still working hard to tear down old classrooms, update and modernize them. Lockers are gone, old floors torn apart, even the walls are chipped to expose and clean the original brickwork to bring out the building’s industrial chic motif.

Freedom Academy, one of the leading workforce training and skills certification organizations in Noble County, is expected to be the primary beneficiary of the ongoing work as classrooms are prepared for these training programs. professional.

The Dekko Foundation and Crossroads United Way will be moving to the CLC, hopefully by the end of the month. These upstairs offices are nearing completion, but they are not quite ready to move into just yet.

Looking ahead to phase 3, the pandemic has been beneficial in that it has given time to the CLC. Time to think. It’s time to plan. It’s time to think about how he wants to renovate and use those latter parts of the old school.

The Dekko Foundation has invested and continues to invest in the renovation project, a multi-million dollar effort that is still ongoing. With a year and a half left in construction, it will likely take a year, two or more before the Community Learning Center is “finished”.

But in some ways, it will never be “finished” because its programming will continually grow and change to suit the needs of the community.

Although some organizations have moved offices to the CLC, Tipton recalls that the building was not intended to become an office complex for nonprofits. With personal and professional development as a mission, programming will adapt to the needs of the community.

The CLC continues to aim to be a complement, not a competitor or replacement for offerings in the region. The slowdown due to COVID-19 made it possible to take the time to do these assessments.


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