New College board considering hotels for student housing, dorm renovation amid mold issues

Richard Corcoran as seen at a New College of Florida Board of Trustees meeting Feb.  28, 2023.

Richard Corcoran as seen at a New College of Florida Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 28, 2023.

New College of Florida’s trustees convened for a committee meeting Monday afternoon to discuss issues surrounding housing amid a record incoming group of students and mold problems in campus dorms.

The board discussed using hotel rooms from a nearby Hilton on Tamiami Trail in Sarasota to accommodate a 150-bed shortfall as several student housing buildings were shut down due to renovations and mold issues making some buildings uninhabitable.

At maximum capacity, New College has 629 beds, Interim President Richard Corcoran said. The college had only 427 beds usable to fill 574 housing requests as of Monday. Students would have transportation to and from the hotel every hour, provided by the hotel, Corcoran said.

Central to the student housing discussion was a report on mold in all campus buildings that was commissioned by New College in May which stated that the IM Pei-designed dorm buildings “should not be occupied” because of their condition. Corcoran said the same firm that completed the report would come back before the fall semester to reevaluate campus buildings, specifically the Pei dorms.

New College closed one of the three Pei buildings because of mold issues. In the other two Pei buildings, several of the rooms have also been shut down because of mold, and a New College spokesperson said those rooms were being renovated.

Between 30 and 50 rooms are still useable in the Pei dorms, but their availability will be reevaluated after the outside firm ensures their safety before the fall semester, Corcoran said. Student trustee Grace Keenan asked if any room in Pei was safe to live in because of mold issues with the HVAC system, which runs through every room. Corcoran responded by saying it wasn’t possible to replace the HVAC system in Pei dorms because of the building design.

The student housing discussion comes following emails sent to returning students last week informing them that their housing assignments had been changed to accommodate incoming record numbers of incoming student-athletes and freshmen. The email said some upperclassmen might be assigned to Pei dorms, while the historically-upperclassman apartment-style dorms would go to the student-athletes.

Students had until July 14 to cancel their housing agreements with no penalty, a deadline of only three days after the email was sent. For many students, living off campus is not a financially viable option because of the cost of renting in the Sarasota-Manatee area.

Corcoran has made implementation of an athletics program at the state’s only liberal arts honors college a major part of a plan for boosting enrollment.

Follow Herald-Tribune Education Reporter Steven Walker on Twitter at @swalker_7. He can be reached at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: New College of Florida turns to hotels amid mold in dorms, renovations