School was not in session Saturday morning at State High, but the halls of the school were bustling with people.
“I think the whole population of State College is here today,” one attendee said after exiting Saturday’s open house that showcased the new State College Area High School.
The school’s parking lot was packed, with vehicles overflowing into the nearby Weis Markets lot, as residents were eager to get their first glimpse of what the new high school looks like after the January completion of Phase I of the $140 million project.
“There were probably more people that arrived on the front end than we anticipated, that’s for sure,” Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said. “I think at 9:30 (a.m.) there were a couple hundred people here.
“So the flow of people was a little more than we were prepared for with the tours, so we shifted from tours to sort of self-guided, which was a great problem to have. We were excited the community came out to see what the design turned out to be.”
The open house, which was scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon but had people looking around well past the closing time, brought out alumni, current and future students, as well as curious community members.
Jenni Bamer, Carol Pepper and Lynne Bechdel all graduated from State High together in 1982. Among the new perks they say the students now have are more food options at the cafeteria, more windows and a lot more technology.
“It would have been nice to have all been under one roof, too,” Bechdel said. “In 10th grade, we used to have to spend the first half of the day in the old junior high, then switch. So it would have been nice to have been under one roof from the start.”
Overall, the three friends, who all live in State College, said they’re impressed.
Scott Thompson, Class of ’77, echoed their praise of the size and openness of the building.
“It’s very nice, very open with a lot of light. The natural lighting seems really nice,” he said. “There’s a lot of water fountains, a lot of seating, and a lot of places to power your technology.”
The new cafeteria and food court, which sophomore Caoilin Hall said even boasts a burrito line, was a highlight for many people. Another favorite were the career and technical classrooms.
Hall, who’s taking a sports science class, also appreciates the upgrades to those classrooms, as she now gets hands-on experience in a lab that mimics what one would see at a physical therapy office, with patient beds and various pieces of exercise equipment.
“The classrooms are very big but the classes are small, and you can tell the teachers really like it,” she said. “I definitely like it more. It’s more accessible to everything. Everything’s just bigger and better.”
The other career and technical classrooms included an auto body shop, a wood shop and a nursing classroom with dummies set up in hospital beds.
O’Donnell said he was not surprised by the large turnout, as he said the public has been supportive from the beginning.
“When they supported the project through the referendum, we knew a lot of people supported us moving forward,” he said. “And obviously today shows that people wanted to see what they invested in and see where our community’s youth are spending a lot of their time. So we’re really grateful they came out to see what our community, what our faculty designed and came up with, and we’re really proud of it.”