State College Area school board weighs in on preliminary designs for high school

mmorgan@centredaily.comOctober 21, 2013 

— After taking a week to look over the new preliminary schematic design options for the high school project, State College Area school board members gave some feedback to the planning team at its work session Monday.

Each of the board members showed some level of support for the second option, which includes new construction in front of the current South Building in a crescent formation near Westerly Parkway. The other option could be for westward expansion of the building, adding the three-story new construction portion there.

Board member Gowen Roper said he likes the design of the crescent option better if the phasing options and cost concerns are equal.

“This design seems more potentially open,” he said. “It’s less bulky. It has something that’s more consistent with the spirit of the educational plan.”

Several board members said the design is more compact and it would be good to put the new construction in front to show it off for people passing the school.

Though the ability to phase the construction and make it less disruptive to the current students are board concerns, board member Jim Pawelczyk said it’s impossible for the construction not to cause some discomfort.

“Anyone who thinks this project isn’t going to be disruptive is fooling themselves,” he said.

Pawelczyk said it could be “extremely disruptive” at times, but everyone needs to realize that it will be worth it in the end when the construction is finished.

Both options were designed to incorporate the educational model, which utilizes small learning communities into the plans.

The learning communities are a way to group students and provide increased curricular and cross-curricular collaboration.

The four decentralized learning communities would be: business and communications; health and human services; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and arts and humanities. A fifth community would be designed around freshmen to ease them into high school life.

Principal Scott DeShong said keeping the program flexible and including increased collaboration will both be key going forward.

He cited student-to-student collaboration as well as student-to-teacher, teacher-to-teacher and teacher-to-parent talks as a way to increase learning for everyone.

“That’s going to result in positive student growth,” he said.

Using the board’s comments and direction, the design team will continue working on the schematics and create a more in-depth floor plan design for the board’s Oct. 28 meeting.

Business Administrator Randy Brown and his staff continues to work through tax ideas and funding structures that will allow the district to pay for the brunt of the project if the referendum passes in May.

He said he’s continuing to find a balance or sweet spot, which would lower the referendum tax increase by contributing more of the district’s debt service money into the high school project and less toward other projects around the district.

The board and district officials will continue to discuss the ideas and present them to the community at a forum 7 p.m. Nov. 4 in the high school South Building cafeteria.

Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.

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