Community members get clearer picture of new State High

mcarroll@centredaily.comNovember 4, 2013 

— Red and green stickers dotted the designs that show how the future of the State College Area High School could shape up.

Each marker represented the feedback, good or bad, of several dozen parents, students and neighbors who packed into the South Building cafeteria Monday.

They were invited there by the district, which continues to seek input on its pending high school construction project. It was the fifth such community forum, and it gave residents the most detailed look yet at what might be the final product.

“It gets more exciting as you see the visuals here,” said board President Penni Fishbaine.

Residents saw preliminary drawings of two similar but separate ideas of how the high school will take shape.

The State College school board has settled on a plan that would locate all core academic classes on the south side of Westerly Parkway utilizing additions, renovation and new construction.

After the board selected that model, called Concept D, its architects were able to concentrate on the design and put more thought into how it could be improved. They have come up with a second option for the design, which the board has asked them to develop further.

“We’re excited to show the advancements we have been developing,” lead architect John Beddia said.

Those plans call for new construction where the South Building’s parking lot is now, instead of a westward expansion into what is now grass.

That has its advantages, Beddia said.

It would allow a bus loop to be built around the school, allowing for better traffic flow, and would enable the district to better group core classes together, a philosophy that’s central to the project.

After a short presentation by designers and school officials, residents were asked to take the new and original Concept D drawings to task, putting red stickers where they saw problems and green stickers when they liked an idea.

Some residents expressed concerns over parking and traffic flow issues. Others praised the loop that would be included in the newer option.

Designers said they are still working on the details and that more information will be available as the process continues.

One thing they hope will address traffic worries is the creation of a four-way intersection by connecting Logan Avenue with Westerly Parkway. They said they are discussing the possibility with State College Borough officials.

“We continue to work on designs every day,” Beddia said.

School board Vice President Amber Concepcion said the board has directed its design firm to continuing working on the newer Concept D option, and will be further reviewing that plan over the next month.

“As we are evaluating these two options over November, we will be (working toward) coming to a decision,” Concepcion said.

Its own tentative schedule shows the board will make a final decision on the design elements and how much of the project taxpayers will shoulder by a Dec. 2 meeting

State College residents will ultimately decide whether to proceed with the project — which carries a price tag north of $100 million and a corresponding tax increase — in a referendum vote that will appear on the May 20 primary election ballot.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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