Snag could impact State College high school project timeline

The oft-evolving State College Area High School project timetable is beginning to become clearer.

Ed Poprik, director of physical plant, laid out some goals for the board at its work session Monday, including five new community forums and other important dates where decisions need to be made before the May 20, 2014, referendum.

The calendar includes narrowing the concepts to one or two by August and choosing the final one in October.

But a hitch in the plans could surround option E, a new school at a new site.

In order to open at one of the three proposed sites, the district would have to clear a development of regional impacts application with the municipality and the Centre Region Council of Governments.

“Getting option E onto the May 20 referendum is a tenuous situation at best,” Poprik said.

The board must make a decision if option E is still in the mix by the end of August to start the DRI process in September. The minimum nine-step process between the municipality, the Centre Region Planning Agency and COG wouldn’t be finished until late February at the earliest.

Jim Pawelczyk, board member and COG liaison, said the DRI process involves “quite a bit of work” and could hold up the plans.

Under the current schedule the board would approve a referendum question on March 24.

Troubles in acquiring the land for the new school could further exacerbate the problem, Poprik said, adding that it doesn’t address the questions about DRI and referendum approval.

While the board could develop option E and another option simultaneously, Poprik said it would cost extra money because the architecture firm Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates is only contracted to develop one concept.

The five additional community forums do not have cemented dates, but will focus on survey results, education model, the final concept, a draft design and a final design. They will likely be held between August and March.

Board member Ann McGlaughlin said she sees some value in the forums, but questioned whether the district should seek to give the public more information outside the forums because of the small attendance at the previous meetings.

“I don’t think that’s the most effective way to reach large amounts of people,” she said.

Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said he is pushing for the forums to stay consistent with past efforts and give the public specific chances to comment on the process.

He added that he would support more aggressive outreach as the project moves along.