While physical construction on the new Washburn Tech East campus is at a standstill, educational offerings will start as scheduled Jan. 7 at a temporary location, officials announced Monday.

The Antioch Family Life Center, 1921 S.E. Indiana Ave., will host classrooms until construction is complete on Washburn Tech East, 2014 S.E. Washington St.

“We wanted to do everything we could to fulfill the promise we made that we would start in January,” Washburn University president Jerry Farley said during a news conference in front of the Antioch center.

In September, Champion Builders was declared in default on its construction contract to build Washburn Tech East. Since then, no work has been done on the project as the bonding company, The Hartford, searched for a new contractor.

Farley indicated work could resume soon.

“I’ve been advised today that there are a couple of little details left, and our target now is to get work underway again by the end of this week,” he said. “If that can occur, we should be able to take possession of the building in the first few days of May.

“A lot of people have worked really hard to get the project back on track.”

In the meantime, all programs and classes scheduled for early next year at Washburn Tech East will be offered at the temporary location, which is just north of the construction site. Programs will include building technology, health aid, commercial truck driving and GED classes, along with English as a second language courses.

“To East Topeka, what this means is that [Washburn] is keeping their word to the community that they’re going to supply education over here on this side,” said The Rev. T.D. Hicks, pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. “They didn’t allow this obstacle to stop them from going forward.”

When officials broke ground in March on the East Topeka Learning Center, which is home to Washburn Tech East, Farley called the project “a dream for a number of people for many, many years.”

Despite the recent challenges, Farley said officials remained committed to turning the dream into reality.

“We want to make this a great success,” Farley said. “It’s going to depend on all of us to make sure that students come to this center, because if we don’t have students, we’re not going to have people to go fill jobs that we know are waiting out there.

“I’ve heard so many times how many jobs are available now in this area, and we want to make sure we can help as many people into those jobs with qualifications that will make them wonderful employees.”

Hicks also announced Monday a collaboration with the YMCA to provide child care at the facility.

“One of the goals we have at the life center is to remove all excuses, and we know that child care is an excuse for individuals to say they can’t go back to school,” Hicks said.

YMCA president and CEO John Mugler said the organization will offer full-day day care at Antioch, starting with a nursery. “And we’re really excited about the opportunity for a summer camp to add to the four locations we already have,” he added.

Washburn Tech East is a partnership with Washburn Tech, GO Topeka and the Joint Economic Development Organization. Once completed, the 11,000-square-foot facility will provide space for up to 400 students per year.

Prospective students can call (785) 670-2200 for more information. Financial aid and scholarships are available to qualifying students.

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