How ongoing construction could affect State College students this fall

Several buildings at State College Area schools will still be partially under construction when students start back to school on Aug. 26.

The district is working on seven building projects that have needed to be completed on a tight timeline, said Jason Little, SCASD assistant director of Physical Plant.

District contractors and staff are busy finishing up the new Spring Creek Elementary School, upgrades to Radio Park and Corl Street elementary schools, the new North Building for the Delta Program, the South Building for State College Area High School, the Memorial Field project and an HVAC renovation at Mount Nittany Middle School, Little said.

The Memorial Field project is slated for completion in fall 2020, he said.

All buildings should be ready for public occupancy by Aug. 23, he said, but “we’ll still have some minor work that will probably go into the fall of 2019.”

That work includes minor site finishes like planting grass and topsoil in the parking lot at Spring Creek and outside Radio Park, completing floor finishes and the library at Corl Street, finishing a large group instruction area at the Delta North Building and finalizing a cafe and the auditorium in the State High South Building.

Students will use a temporary library room at Corl Street until the new one is completed sometime in September, Little said.

Playgrounds will also be unfinished for Spring Creek, Radio Park and Corl Street, as the district moves forward with its playground master plan. For the 2019-2020 school year, contractors will install basketball hoops and swingsets on the finished blacktop area, and “softscape” areas of mulch and grass during September and October.

“The ultimate (playground) installation for those three schools won’t happen until spring/summer of 2020,” Little said. “We had originally had it slated for February, and we’re pushing it to May to allow more school input ... but to also build in a more desirable weather condition, and to lessen the impact to the schools.”

At its Aug. 5 meeting, the board of directors discussed communicating with principals and families to better inform them about the changes in the playground master plan timeline. Board member Laurel Zydney urged the district to consider spreading deadlines out more.

“Part of what we keep doing is always having tight timelines. And we’ve had that all along. I would like us to try to do it where if there are things that come up it’s not, ‘Well, it’s too tight,’ ” she said.

With so many construction projects to manage, Little said, some things haven’t gone as smoothly as planned.

“The challenge with Spring Creek is the parking lot sits where the old building (Houserville Elementary) used to lay, so we couldn’t start any construction here until the end of June 2019,” he said.

Construction crews took a month to demolish the building, since SCASD wants all buildings to meet LEED Gold certification, he said. They had to recycle everything in the building with value before proceeding with demolition, from toilets and water faucets to steel and copper from the electrical system. Then, they could start building the new parking lot.

Corl Street Elementary “will be down to the wire,” said Director of the Physical Plan Ed Poprik at the SCASD board meeting on Aug. 5.

“Of the three elementary schools, Corl Street is probably the most challenging one, because that was the heavy-duty renovation portion of the building and tying both renovated portions into brand new construction as well as tying that into the part of the building we were already occupying,” he said.

Part of the new construction means providing ADA accessibility through paths to all buildings and ramps and elevators within buildings, Little said.

“One of our big pushes at all of our new projects, not only from the code requirements, it’s incorporated just by natural building design code, but we wanted to make our facilities as accessible as possible,” he said. “Same with our playgrounds, that’s been one of our big pushes on our new playground master plan, is accessibility.”