Northeastern Junior College is about to have a major presence in Yuma.

The Sterling-based junior college is in the process of converting the old City Hall, which before that was the Yuma District Hospital, it its first-ever branch campus.

NJC coming to Yuma was part of a three-way deal with the Bank of Colorado and City of Yuma. The Bank of Colorado’s Yuma branch moved into its spacious new home at the corner of highways 34 and 59 last December. It deeded over its former downtown location to the city for a new City Hall, and the city deeded its home at the south end of S. Main St. to NJC.

The city moved into its new home in downtown Yuma at the end of July.

Now NJC is preparing to open its branch campus in the old city all.

The Yuma Public Library remains in that location, as do other tenants such as the Area Agency on the Aging, Colorado State Patrol, Yuma County Clerk & Recorder, Yuma County Human Services, and the S.A.R.A. House.

NJC’s Lisa LeFevre, vice president of finance and administration, Danen Jobe, vice president of instruction, and David Webb, director of communications, took the Pioneer through a brief tour and informational session about the two-year college’s plans, late last week.

They said it has been set up so that at least one person from the NJC administration, including President Jay Lee, will be at the Yuma campus every day. The school also is in the process of hiring a “facilitator.” That person will be the main face of the Yuma campus, helping with registration and advising.

First order of business will be getting the English as a Second Language (ESL) and Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED) programs. The NJC brass said there has been a big demand for ESL and GED in Yuma, so the school will get that going as soon as possible.

First order of business, though, is getting all the computer wiring done. LeFever explained that the cabling needs to be reconfigured from what the city already had in place because it has to be a secure network.

All of that work, plus furniture, should be in place by the end of September.

NJC’s Danen Jobe (left) and David Webb do some measuring in the main hallway at the junior college’s first-ever branch campus, located in Yuma. (Pioneer Photo)

The plan is to have the location fully functioning — offering credit-earning classes — in time for the 2020 spring semester, which begins in January. One will be able to get an Associates of Arts degree through the Yuma campus when it is fully running.

The NJC leaders said the college’s business department is interested in offering classes here, as well as the Ag department, English, math and the humanities. The only sticking point is science, during to various obstacles, such as being able to hold labs here.

A lot of the focus also is going to be on the non-traditional student. They said there are plans for a robust program for community education, particularly for seniors. That could cover a wide variety of topics, such as quilting. Jobe said what is offered will depend significantly on what the community wants.

Also, course could be offered to help get a person a promotion within their own company, or to get qualified for a better-paying job.

The former main office at the old city hall is being converted into a computer lab.

Another part of the main floor is being set up to host two virtual classrooms, where students can participate in real-time in classes taking place at the Sterling campus.

The former Council Chambers is being converted into a two-way virtual classroom, where what is being taught there could be broadcast to other remote locations.

The NJC leaders said other spaces in the Yuma location could be coverted into classrooms in the future if the demand is there.

So why locate NJC’s first branch campus in Yuma?

LeFever said the main reason is, based on information from the Colorado State Office of Demographics, Yuma has reduced the out-migration of those under 25 in recent years, indicating a trend of more young people choosing to stay close to home, but still requiring a need for education to provide better opportunities for themselves.

“Our focus is for people to get a degree in Yuma,” LeFevre said.