State College

State College Area School District outlines timeline for high school project

School district officials laid out their proposed timeline Monday for the milestones they need to meet on the way to the public vote for the high school project.

The process will give State College Area school board members a rough look by next month at the physical specifications of a renovated and expanded high school South Building.

Among the myriad high school project-related issues that also will be discussed Oct. 14 is where those expansions will be located relative to the current footprint, and how many parking spots and sports fields would be needed, said Superintendent Bob O’Donnell.

After months of deliberations, the board backed high school Concept D to modernize the facility. The plan calls for all core academic classes to be located 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.

State College residents will ultimately 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.

Ed Poprik, physical plant director, reviewed with board members Monday some of the key decisions they must make before that time, and the dates the district is targeting for those steps.

“We’ll continue to refine (the draft) as we work through the final legwork,” Poprik said. “We all know the final date is the referendum date. That’s the driving date in this calendar.”

The tentative schedule shows a final decision being made on the design elements for the new school and how much of the project taxpayers will shoulder by a Dec. 2 meeting.

The referendum question, as it will appear on the ballot, would be finalized by Feb. 10 under the timeline, well ahead of the May vote and with plenty of time to collect public input and answer lingering questions, officials said.

“It gives a number of months to have the question approved and to have public dialogue, to have it be very well known and understood by the time we get to the vote,” Poprik said.

The board is scheduled to adopt a draft of educational specifications for the building on Oct. 14. Poprik said the document is a specific, detailed plan of everything that will be in the building, but it won’t be finalized until the district seeks bids on the project.

Officials said the draft will start giving the board a view of what the high school would look like. It’s important to tackle now to allow architects to start designing and to allow for back and forth between the board and those designers.

Poprik said early plans will not include specific price estimates for each component, but said designers are mindful of the $115 million spending cap for the project.

He said work is estimated at between $110 and $125 per square foot for renovations and between $185 and $200 for new construction, with an average around $165 per square foot.

The preliminary plans show a school that’s about 180 square feet of space per student, Poprik said.