Community forum looks at new educational model, potential State College Area high School redesign

Community members had a first hand look Wednesday at how a new educational model could help shape the proposed redesign of the State College Area High School.

The educational model, and how it will fit with Concept D, was the focus of the district’s latest community forum, which drew a light crowd Wednesday evening to the high school south building cafeteria.

After months of deliberations, school board members voted earlier this week to back a high school renovation and expansion plan that would bring all core academic classes to the south side of Westerly Parkway.

State College residents will decide whether to proceed with the project — which carries a price tag north of $100 million and a corresponding tax increase — in a referendum vote that will appear on the May 20 primary election ballot.

In the meantime, officials will spend the next 12 weeks developing options for what the new south building might look like, Ed Poprik, physical plant director, told the group gathered Wednesday at the forum.

The designers will be guided by what the district hopes to accomplish with its new educational model.

“Concept D is a very broad overview and the educational model is very specific,” Poprik said. “We have to take the two and put them together. We have to meld ... all these pieces, fit them together in design options.”

The plan seeks to place like classes and disciplines closer together, said Scott DeShong, the State High principal.

“The way our classes are organized and laid out, there is a good chance a student leaving my classroom won’t pass by for the rest of the day,” DeShong said.

The district is seeking to create new opportunities for groups of students interested in similar fields. Putting like classes closer allows those teachers to communicate better about the students they share. It will also create more opportunities for informal interactions between teachers and students, according to the plan.

“We call it no child left unknown,” DeShong said.

Poprik said the district is now working to determine which types of classes should be grouped together. They’ll use that information when looking at the current building space and were new construction is possible to determine final design options.

Concept D would locate all core academic classes on the south side of Westerly Parkway utilizing additions, renovation and new construction. The north side of the street would be used for the gyms, the swimming pool and could be a home for the district’s Delta program.

District Superintendent Bob O’Donnell, responding to a question about the project Wednesday, said district officials are not yet sure how much of the north building would demolished under the plan.

O’Donnell said district officials will continue discussing the high school project at upcoming board meetings.