West Virginia Junior College, a small for-profit school, is leaving the downtown Charleston location it has occupied for decades and moving to Cross Lanes.
The college had been in the building, at the intersection of Virginia and McFarland streets and across from the Gazette-Mail, since before 1970, said Mike Callen, whose family owns the school.
The school says its history in Charleston goes back much further.
It says it was founded as the Capital City Commercial College in 1892. For decades, that school occupied part of the Odd Fellows building on the corner of Capital and Lee streets.
It’s now part of a chain with campuses in Morgantown and Bridgeport, plus Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Charleston Campus President Michelle Miles said the school will now rent the former location of the Everest Institute, at 5514 Big Tyler Road, in Cross Lanes.
Everest was part of the national for-profit Corinthian Colleges system that shuttered several years ago.
Miles said the main reasons for the move were to eliminate parking costs and issues for students, and to prevent them from having to take stairs, which are in the Gazette-Mail and city parking garages the students used and in the current, multi-story school building.
The new location has one floor, and it “has been an educational institution before, so the layout is perfect,” she said.
But Callen, who serves as general counsel for his family’s schools, said increased drug and crime issues in the area, or just the perception of increased issues, were the main reason. He said a student had to walk around someone injecting drugs in a stairwell.
“Reluctantly, we have to make a move,” Callen said. He said rent at the new location will be almost identical.
Miles said she expects to start operating out of the new location Aug. 17, with about 200 students.
She said the school offers associate’s degrees and some shorter certificate programs in health care areas, like nursing and dental assisting, plus business administration, network administration and security.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston owns the building the college is now vacating.
In 2017, an anonymous donor bought the building from the college for $950,000 and gave it to the Diocese, said Diocese spokesman Tim Bishop. Miles said the college has been paying rent to the Diocese since then.
Bishop said back in 2017 there weren’t specific plans for what the building would become if the college left. Callen said at the time it would only stay for three to seven more years.
Expanding the local Catholic private schools was a consideration, Bishop said back then.
The Sacred Heart Catholic parish controls much of the property in the area.
Bishop wrote in an email Friday that “the Diocese is currently formulating and studying adaptive reuse plans for the building. No plans have been finalized at this time.”