State College

State College high school project narrowed to 2 concepts

The State College Area High School project is down to two concepts, and both are on Westerly Parkway.

In three separate votes Monday night, the board voted 8-0 each time to move forward with Concepts B and D, eliminate Concepts A, C and F and finally eliminate Concept E. Board member Ann McGlaughlin was absent.

Concepts B and D lead the way with 70 percent and 61 percent support, respectively, in the community survey. Though Concept E received 51 percent support — conceivably enough to pass a referendum — it was in the margin of error and included other concerns.

Board member Dorothea Stahl said Concept E brought up too many questions to continue in the process. In order to choose E, the district must complete a development of regional impacts application with the host municipality and the Centre Region Council of Governments.

The district would also have to rally support from State College borough because support was very low among borough voters, as the plan would move the school out of their municipality.

“Concept E adds a lot of barriers to a project that’s long overdue, and I’m not in the business to break down barriers,” Stahl said.

Even after eliminating Concept E, board member Jim Pawelczyk said he doesn’t believe they have lost all of the voters that supported it.

According to survey results, among Concept E supporters, nearly one-third have no strong site preference.

“Of those people, there are 32 percent of them saying, ‘Get the job done. I’ll take either site,’ ” he said.

Now the board will have to choose between the two remaining concepts.

To do that, each member will fill out an evaluation matrix to score the two concepts.

The matrix comrpises six individual board member-weighted categories that are themselves made up of 55 independently weighted criteria.

The categories are: safety and security; educational model; site and location; cost; constructability; and sustainability and environment. The 55 criteria expand on each of the concepts and were weighted by advisory committees.

The concept that receives the highest score will be the one that moves forward.

A final decision on which concept will move forward is expected at the Sept. 9 meeting

The current timetable for concept elimination will include an Aug. 13 community forum on the remaining viable options.

The district is hopeful that a concept will be developed for a May 2014 referendum.

Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said this step is important, but there is still much work to be done.

“This is a step in a large process,” he said.