State College

Residents seek out answers about State High project at seminar

Dan Duffy has been casually following the State College Area High School project so far, but he has recently had a chance to personally interact with board members and district officials to get more information.

Duffy, a retired teacher, has attended two of the district-organized “Coffee and Conversation” seminars, most recently Sunday afternoon at the Panera Bread on North Atherton Street.

Superintendent Bob O’Donnell gave a brief overview of the project to date to the nearly 20 people in attendance before people were able to roam around and ask specific questions. The officials in attendance broke up into three groups to focus on building and site, cost and financing, and the educational model.

For Duffy, the breakout sessions were a good way to streamline questions and allow people to get exactly the information that they were looking for. He attended his second seminar Sunday because he wants to get informed and see the project be successful.

“I came back because I really believe in public education,” he said.

O’Donnell said the format is also helpful for the board members because it allows them to get direct feedback from the public. He said it’s not just about educating the public but also hearing their opinions, which will help shape the outcome of the project.

He has been encouraged by the attendance and discussion through the first few forums, hitting more than 30 people multiple times and getting strong feedback from the attendees.

The officials have also been pleased because many of the people showing up have not been at any prior functions, so they are reaching out to more new people, district spokeswoman Julie Miller said.

Board member Jim Pawelczyk is hoping that the forums will help create a buzz to get people talking about the project more with their friends, family and neighbors.

“This referendum won’t be decided at the board table,” he said. “It will be decided at the kitchen table.”

Jerry Ross said he went to the seminar to get some more information on the project and get answers to some questions. He also said he is a casual follower of the project and encouraged to see the board present sketch plans of what the new school will look like.

Ross attended State High in the 1960s when the South Building was new and said he is happy m that more windows and natural lighting are incorporated into this design because that was something that he didn’t get.

The district has scheduled two forums in December, one at 8 a.m. Dec. 11 at the Wegmans Cafe and another at 8 a.m. Dec. 18 at the Naked Egg Cafe in Pine Grove Mills. Miller said there are no currently scheduled seminars in January, but she plans on scheduling some in the coming weeks.

They also plan to hold special presentations for local groups as more important decisions are made.

The board will meet Monday night to discuss updates on the option development, project calendar and financing.