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Scott Chavez, of Power Source Electric, works on the new science lab at the Los Medanos College College Brentwood Center in Brentwood, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The board approved the $274,500 project recently, which will allow the center to meet a high local demand so that students don't have to drive to the Los Medanos College main campus Pittsburg to use the lab space. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

BRENTWOOD -- Los Medanos College's temporary home is undergoing a makeover.

Construction has begun for a new science and laboratory preparation room at the Brentwood Education and Technology Center, which community college officials say is crucial to meeting the needs of students in the growing far East Contra Costa region.

"This will help with our overarching goal of increasing capacity to provide resources for those pursuing science, technology engineering and math careers," said Kevin Horan, the college's vice president of instruction and student services.

The board approved a $274,500 contract last month with Discovery Bay-based World Priority Construction to configure plumbing and electrical systems in the 1,800-square-foot room, which was once used as a supermarket meat-packing area.

New floor finishes, tables, walls and equipment will be added, and an archway will be cut from an existing wall to connect to the rest of the center, said George Zika, a World Priority vice president.

The project should be completed in late April, Zika said. It will then be stocked with supplies and specialized equipment in preparation for the start of the fall semester, Horan said.

It is funded by a piece of a $4.25 million federal grant Los Medanos received in September 2011 to support STEM programs for high school, community college and four-year colleges and universities for areas with a large number of Latino and low-income students.

The addition will allow the center to meet increased local demand and be a more convenient option for Los Medanos College students who currently have to travel to the main campus in Pittsburg to use lab space, Horan said.

"We've been very limited as to what we can do," he said.

Right now, there are some non-lab based biology classes at the Brentwood Center. The new set-up will allow labs for courses such as organismic and cellular biology and some physics classes.

Students have been "overwhelmingly positive" about the project, especially the prospect of not having to travel for lab time, Horan said. However, there are some concerns about parking and whether the addition will make available stalls even more scarce.

The temporary space has been used by the college since 2001, and is on a month-to-month lease agreement with Brentwood.

Supplies and equipment from the project, including microscopes and autoclaves, will be moved to a planned 17-acre permanent campus on the city's southwest side, Horan said.

Design and construction could begin on that campus in 2015 and be completed within three years, if money is secured through a bond measure, Horan said.

Trustees will consider putting that measure on the June ballot later this month.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.