State College

School board leaders: The need for the State High project — the time is now

On May 20, all registered voters in the State College Area School District will make a very important decision regarding education in our community: there will be a referendum to fund the State High project.

This urgently needed update will provide a comprehensive high school facility to serve multiple generations.

Why do we need to update our high school now?

Aging and deficient facilities

The current State High campus consists of two aging and deficient buildings divided by Westerly Parkway. These buildings are nearly 60 years old, do not meet current codes or the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility requirements, and have failing mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Obsolete heating systems and single-pane windows waste energy and make it difficult to regulate temperatures throughout the buildings or get parts for frequently needed repairs. The plumbing and stormwater management systems are no longer sufficient.

One obvious result is local flooding during and after heavy rain. The electrical and lighting systems are outdated and inefficient. Some classrooms lack windows and daylighting, and air circulation is compromised.

Although small classroom wings were added to the buildings 14 years ago, core facilities such as libraries, auditoriums and cafeterias remain their original size. Due to undersized core facilities, students eat lunch, work and study throughout our hallways.

Safety and security

There are real safety and security concerns that cannot be fully addressed with the current configuration of the high school campus.

The frequent movement of students in and out of the buildings between class periods makes it difficult to monitor the entrances. With two buildings on an open campus, students must walk through parking lots and across a major thoroughfare between classes.

The State High Project would locate all academic spaces in one building to reduce transition time and off-campus student travel, and improve campus security.

Educational environment

While the deteriorating condition of the buildings is driving the need for this project, we believe an investment of this magnitude must provide a building design that better meets the educational needs of our students.

The proposed south side building is designed to enhance learning opportunities by encouraging collaboration, increasing time for student learning, giving a smaller-school feeling to our large high school, and providing flexible spaces that will promote current and evolving educational practices for years to come. The proposed campus design will serve the school and community by improving traffic flow and emergency access, mitigating stormwater flooding, and allowing space for more parking and expanded athletic facilities.

With input from students, faculty and an educational planner, the district developed an educational model for the high school campus. Additionally, the school board used results from the community survey to inform decisions about the proposed building project.

We chose the architectural firm Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates based on the quality of their work and their record of cost-effective school construction projects. You can view the preliminary schematic designs for the high school campus on our website. In late 2013, the school board decided to cap the project cost at $115 million and to limit the amount of new tax revenue we would ask from the community to $85 million.

For our community’s State High project, the time is now. The cost of a comprehensive update of these facilities will only grow in future years if this project is delayed. This project is our recommendation, but the decision is yours. Please vote on May 20.

If you have attended any of our coffees, forums or meetings, we wholeheartedly thank you. Since January 2012, we have held many meetings around the community to gather feedback and provide updates for the project. Your input has helped shape our work along the way.

We earnestly invite all residents to attend one of our outreach events, to tour the high school buildings, and to share the importance of this decision with your friends and neighbors.

For more details on the State High Project, please visit For more information or to request an information session for a local neighborhood or community group of any kind, please contact Julie Miller at 272-8600 or email

We look forward to hearing from you.

Penni Fishbaine is president of the State College Area School Board. Amber Concepcion is the vice president.