A concrete slab with the engraving “2019” lies against a wall on the inside of a Massaro Construction Group trailer on the State College Area High School North Building grounds.
Eventually, it will be built into the completed high school.
Summer 2019 is when the project is set to be completed, with its first graduating class the following year.
The State High project will last about four years and cost about $140 million
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Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said the four-year, $140 million building project will update an aging facility, achieve handicap accessibility, improve security and change the educational environment.
But the first half of this school year will be the toughest part yet, according to district Director of Physical Plant Ed Poprik.
“I hate to paint doom and gloom, but the reality is these (next) four months are the most difficult for the project team, for the students, for the teachers because what we’ve been doing is tearing down existing parts of the (South) building, building new and sort of working our way to some more demolition,” he said. “We’re comfortable we can deliver the program we need to deliver, but it will be a very tight building on a very tight campus for the amount of work that’s going on.”
Poprik said that by the new year, however, phase one will be completed in time for students to occupy a larger part of the South Building, what will be the campus’ main high school, which includes four education units, called pods.
Phase 2 of State High project to begin in January and last through summer of 2019
Phase two will include the demolition, construction and renovation of the back part of the South Building, and project additions for the North Building, which will house the Delta Program, a pool and two gymnasiums.
The CDT was among a group given a private tour of the South Building construction site earlier this month.
Project manager Tim Jones said each floor has a repeating pattern of an open classroom in the center surrounded by traditional classrooms where students will move into after winter break.
Every regular education classroom will sit in those pods.
“All students will be in the new construction while we’re finishing off and starting phase two,” Poprik said. “All that needs to be done then is the auditorium, a couple gymnasiums (and) some of the extra spaces. The second half will be a stark difference from September to December to January and to the spring.”
The pods will help bring a different education system to the school by moving away from what some educators called the “factory model.”
We had a high school campus with about 2,000 kids on a daily basis and it was geared in a departmental model where the English department sat in one place and social studies sat in another and the math sat in another, and the kids rotated around to get to those subjects like the kids are on an assembly line
Ed Poprik, director of physical plant
“We had a high school campus with about 2,000 kids on a daily basis and it was geared toward a departmental model, where the English department sat in one place and social studies sat in another and the math sat in another, and the kids rotated around to get to those subjects like the kids were on an assembly line,” Poprik said.
He added that the new educational units were designed based on an academy structure where things are broken down across the four units on the four floors.
“We’ll have a ninth-grade academy where they will have their education experience in a portion of one of the educational units, and it’s an academy in itself,” Poprik said. “But it’s an important part of the project and things are designed around these smaller units instead of big long hallways with classrooms.”
Poprik said there will only be about a two-week window during winter break to move everything into that space before the new year.
“(It) is a lot to do to move basically the whole population into new construction,” Poprik said, “but it’s going to be a good transition and really going to open up space for the teaching and learning we’ve been planning for.”