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Rendering of Dalton State Science Building

DALTON, Ga. -- Seven years after officials proposed expanding its science department, Dalton State College broke ground Monday on a three-story, 58,000-square-foot science building.

School officials say they hope the building, expected to be completed by next summer, will attract more students seeking science majors, prerequirements for engineering or other degrees and premedical students.

"[We hope] it will be an attraction for the workforce in the local industries as well as students who are just interested in science," said Sandra Stone, the college's vice president for academic affairs.

The School of Science, Technology and Mathematics now offers four-year degrees in biology, chemistry and mathematics, and the labs for the science classes are at capacity with 325 biology majors and 66 chemistry majors, Dean Randall Griffus said.

Since Dalton State added the science degrees -- biology six years ago and chemistry two years ago -- the majors continued to grow until officials had to stop adding students because of space problems, Griffus said.

The new building, originally approved by the state Board of Regents in 2005, continually was delayed, then its size reduced by half in 2011. Earlier this year, once the cost was reduced to $15 million, the work at Dalton State was approved in the 2013 fiscal budget. The school also received $500,000 from the John Willis Mashburn Charitable Foundation.

At Monday's ceremony, officials said the project has taken hard work, determination and many hands.

"When we started working on this in '05, my hair was dark," laughed Jim Jolly, a member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. "This is a great time."

When the new building is complete, officials hope to attract more students with its state-of-the-art equipment, more specialized labs and even private labs to encourage student research, which officials said is increasing in popularity.

At the same time, the science department is continuing to better its curriculum, which has been adapted to suit the needs of the local industries, Stone said.

And the school is continuing to build more partnerships for students who want to earn some of their required courses at Dalton then transfer to another school, she said.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at 423-757-6659 or