The doors of the new State College Area High School opened for the first time on Monday as students, faculty and staff filled their new home.
To kick off the day’s celebration, students made their way into the gymnasium at the old North Building, where they were greeted by the State High band playing familiar tunes. The pep rally included half-court shots from members of various athletic teams, a dunk contest between basketball players and remarks from district administrators.
Excitement was in the air at the standing-room-only event, and as the final notes of the school’s alma mater were played, students poured out of the gym and crossed Westerly Parkway to settle into more than 300,000 square feet of new educational space.
“We’re really excited to reach this point in the process,” Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said. “We still have a long way to go with the remainder of the project, about a year and a half, but we’re very excited for our students and faculty to move into updated spaces.”
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The move officially ends the first phase of the three-phase, more than $140 million project, which is being orchestrated by general contractor Massaro Construction Management Services from Pittsburgh.
Tim Jones, project manager, led a tour through the finished space, which was highlighted by large classrooms lit with abundant natural light and equipped with the latest technology; shared open spaces with a college campus feel; and technology centers such as a multimedia studio and full-service automobile repair shop.
The tour dodged students who were using the scheduled two-hour delay to acclimate themselves to the new building before the start of class. Like tourists in a city, they looked up and around at their new surroundings with smiles accompanying their joyful comments.
One of the students experiencing the new school was Justin Korman, student government president. The senior said that leading up to the opening date he was a little nervous about the school being ready, but seeing the finished educational spaces is a relief.
“It’s exciting, and it’s really historic being a part of that pep rally over at the other building and really starting to take it in.” Korman said. “ It’s been a long process. I’m only going to get to enjoy it for half a year, but I’m excited for the other students that are going to be able to enjoy it for decades to come.”
Increased educational space was a theme of the comments shared by district administrators.
O’Donnell said the design of the school included input from many voices in the educational community and one of the messages that came through was the lack of space designed to accommodate the diversity of programs offered by State High.
“We finally have a building that will match our prestige and pride that we have here at the high school,” Principal Curtis Johnson said. “We finally have a building that’s state of the art and technology facilities that will help us meet the needs of our students.”
Jones said the project is on schedule and will continue with phase two, which will include renovations and additions to existing portions of the South Building. When the south building work is completed, educational space will exceed 520,000 square feet.
Phase two construction will also move across the street to the North Building where renovation work will begin in the classrooms. Phase three will begin in June when parts of the North Building will be demolished and replaced.
All construction is expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, which will offer educational space between the two buildings that will exceed 600,000 square feet.