State College school district considers expanding Delta Program

mmorgan@centredaily.comJanuary 12, 2014 

  • IF YOU GO

    What: State College Area school board meeting

    When: 7 p.m. Monday

    Where: Boardroom, 131 W. Nittany Ave.

In the hope of creating a more defined middle school-type experience with the Delta Program, the State College Area School District is proposing to expand the program to fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said it will help the younger Delta students by breaking them off more from the older ones to allow for a better transition.

“Our goal is to be more responsive to current seventh- and eighth-grade students,” he said.

The administration will present the proposal to the school board at Monday’s meeting with potential action at the Jan. 27 meeting.

If it’s passed, the switch would take place at the start of the next school year.

The Delta Program is housed in the Fairmount Building, but if the referendum passes in May, the plan would be to move it to the high school North Building on the Westerly Parkway campus.

And as the referendum date inches closer, district officials and board members will be increasing the communication effort to educate people about the project and what they will be voting on.

The board passed a not-to-exceed referendum figure of $85 million last month, and that tax increase would be a separate line item on a tax bill. It also previously passed a $115 million cap for the entire project budget.

The annual tax impact for the average homeowner in the district would be about $250 per year.

Board President Penni Fishbaine said it will be important to explain the need to residents because the buildings are becoming more expensive to maintain and something needs to be done.

“Our facilities are becoming obsolete,” she said. “They’re failing.”

Fishbaine said the board will be actively going out to talk with groups to be more proactive about the entire process. She wants to go to meetings about three or four times a week to talk to as many people as possible.

Soon the project will reach a phase where all the information will be out and it will become static, and that is a time to really reach out to people with all the updated information, she said.

She added that one group they will be trying to reach out to are those who don’t have children in the district. Even for them, she said, this project would be worth it to improve the educational experience of the hundreds of students who attend the high school each year.

“People say, ‘I don’t have children in the district. Why should I pay?’ ” she said. “The point is people pay forward for education.”

Vice President Amber Concepcion agreed that increased communication will be one of the most important pieces moving forward.

There has only been one successful funding referendum in Pennsylvania, and she said open dialogue was a big factor for the Upper Dublin School District.

“There has only been one that’s been approved, although others have come close,” she said. “In talking with people in those communities, it seems that communication is a very important factor in these processes, and can have a significant impact on whether it gets approved.”

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