State College High School officials work through options for North Building

mmorgan@centredaily.comNovember 16, 2013 

— After months of focus on renovation plans for State High’s South Building, district leaders are turning their attention to the North Building.

The district is recommending the building be used for the gymnasiums, natarorium, Delta Program, district kitchen and some minor physical plant operations, Physical Plant Director Ed Poprik said.

Preliminary talks about moving all the functions of the Fairmount Building to the North side of Westerly Parkway likely won’t be acted upon because the district will focus more on high school student-related uses.

“Our high school campus is a pretty busy place, and real estate is at a premium,” Poprik said. “We really want to focus on the high school, which includes the Delta Program.”

The updates will add cost to the North side but subtract cost from the South side, so the recommendations are cost neutral to the total project budget.

School board member Jim Pawelczyk said that a major priority for the North Building is the inclusion of the Delta Program because it will give those students more access to the Westerly campus.

“For those students who want a very small high school experience, this is the best opportunity that exists in the Centre Region,” he said of Delta.

But ultimately when it comes to the North Building, cost will be a determining factor for Pawelczyk.

He said he is comfortable with a referendum amount up to $75 million, but when it starts to get higher, he is less confident the vote will pass on May 20. There will be a substantial district contribution, but the revenue from the referendum tax increase would provide the majority of the funds for the project.

Though he would like to see the project get finished in one try, if costs begin to rise, he thinks they should try to get as much of the project done with the funding that they have. He wouldn’t want to see the referendum fail and the project stall because they tried to request too much money.

Pawelczyk would like to see the board soon make some final decisions on the North Building to allow for more focus on other portions of the project with the looming referendum-related vote dates.

Board President Penni Fishbaine expects the board to take some action on the North recommendation within the next month. She said she understands that a failed referendum would kill the project, but she wants the entire construction to be done in one phase.

She said that if the board ends up cutting the North Building out of the plans to save money, the construction might never get done.

“I think if we wait on the North side, it won’t get done for a very long time and then we’ll have more disrepair and maintenance costs in the long run,” she said.

No final cost estimates have been decided, but the board will continue to talk about possible funding scenarios at its Nov. 18 meeting.

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

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