CHESTER HILL, Clear-field County — When Robin Stewart started teaching in the Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District, it was at Philipsburg Junior High.
For more than 30 years, she has watched the district grow and change, as the ninth-graders moved to the high school, as the junior high consolidated with its sister school in Osceola Mills, and staff and students came and went. The building stayed almost unchanged as multiple proposals were made over the years to upgrade, close or replace it.
On Tuesday, Stewart, now the junior high principal, stood at the podium for the groundbreaking ceremony on a renovation project for what will become P-O Middle School.
“Knowing we are giving our children a 21st century learning facility is a great honor,” she said.
Stewart will become one of the two principals for the middle school when it is completed next fall.
For now, the building, which will still house fifth-and sixth-graders when they return to school this month, was already under construction before the ceremonial groundbreaking.
Floors have been pulled up, ceilings pulled down, doors removed.
Work will continue throughout the school year as the existing structure is renovated and the current parking area by the district administrative offices becomes the added two-story facility.
Final costs of the project are estimated at $23.9 million.
Superintendent Stephen Benson gave credit to community members, faculty and board members who served on a committee, reviewing multiple proposals and possibilities for months before recommending the renovation.
He also thanked state Reps. Camille “Bud” George, D-Houtzdale, and Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, for their support of the project in Harrisburg, especially amid uncertainty over education funding.
George called the project especially meaningful in light of the relationship between economic development and education.
“I think it’s important to everyone,” he said, pointing to the number of people living in poverty in the area and the need for better jobs. “School is important. We’ve got to educate our young people and get them ready for the higher education that is so obligatory for them now.”