State College

State College school officials to work toward proactive high school project communication

As the State College Area High School project continues to develop, board and district leadership will be more focused on proactively communicating with the community.

In addition to continuing with community forums, Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said they will meet with community groups to help explain exactly what the project is and what the referendum will be paying for.

“There is no question that we will continue to ramp up the communications that we’ve been doing,” he told the CDT editorial board Monday.

The district plans to release another flier that specifically outlines goals and strategies. District officials want to emphasize the educational specifications and building advantages.

Board President Penni Fishbaine said lack of action isn’t an option.

As the buildings continue to age, deferred maintenance costs will continue to build, and high school repairs would deplete districtwide resources, she said.

“We know we need a new high school,” Fishbaine said. “We know we need it today. We know we needed it yesterday.”

The board voted last week to approve a plan that would locate all core academic classes on the south side of Westerly Parkway with additions, renovation and new construction and utilize the north side for the gym and pool.

O’Donnell stressed that the new building would provide flexibility in the educational model. Small learning communities could be adapted and updated to make this model viable for years, he said.

But officials know all the planning will mean very little if the referendum doesn’t pass.

The board has decided to maintain the referendum date as May 20, 2014, voting against the idea of holding a special election in February. A main reason the district recommended the May referendum is to get more time to get out in the community and explain the project to voters.

Board Vice President Amber Concepcion said that conversation has to be a “two-way street.” The board will educate the community, but also get as much feedback as possible to continue to implement community input into the plans.

She asks interested groups to reach out and ask district or board leadership to speak at their meetings or events.

Fishbaine said she is optimistic that all the work will pay off and the referendum will pass. She said she is encouraged by what she has heard from the community so far but also realizes there is still work that needs to be done.