State College

State College school board to decide on expanding State High project to include Delta Middle program

The State College Area School District school board could add a $4.5 million expansion to the State High project to include the Delta Middle program.

Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said the alternatives would be costlier.

It is scheduled to be the first individual item the board takes action on at its meeting Monday.

The $4.5 million in additional costs would be for Delta Middle to be added to the project. It is already in the $115 million project’s original plans for 20,000 square feet to be added to the State High North Building for Delta High’s academic wing. The $4.5 million would add 22,000 more square feet to the originally planned expansion.

The school district’s recently completed districtwide feasibility study looked into alternatives for how to school the Delta Middle program.

Estimates in the study for renovating the Fairmount Building, which was built in 1914 and is the school district’s oldest facility, to continue to house Delta Middle students would be about $20 million.The least costly alternatives identified by the project team for housing the Delta Middle program in the future would be about $8 million projects.

“It is the most cost effective solution to space for the Delta students and teachers,” O’Donnell said. “More importantly, the larger operational cost is significantly lower if our Delta Middle program is adjacent to the Delta 9-12 program, because we share a principal, a support staff, a guidance counselor, cafeteria services and six teachers between the two programs.”

The project’s design team and school board previously discussed adding $6.5 million and 32,000 square feet to the State High project for Delta Middle during a Nov. 3 work session, but the design team scaled it back $2 million and 10,000 square feet.

“Just like the high school program where 2,300 students live, we’ve been refining that entire process of the floor plan as we move through the design, and we’ll continue to do so,” O’Donnell said. “Maximizing resources and designing what is needed for the programs, not more than what is needed for the programs, is critical.”

O’Donnell said the Delta program needed to be caught up.

“Consequently, the design that was seen last week for the Delta 9-12 program, which has a draft for the middle level piece attached to it, was not refined,” he said. “I’ll take the mistake made, and here’s the key mistake made: Our design team wanted to understand whether the program was going to move forward before they spent significant time refining Delta’s floor plan. Our board wanted to understand the cost, because of the information fair and because of the deadline for our PlanCon submissions.”

The project’s design team and the Delta program spent time in the past week discussing Delta Middle’s future.

“The timing of all the conversations that needed to take place did not occur, and the 30 percent review identified the need for that refinement,” he said. “If the board decides to approve the inclusion of the Delta Middle program into the project, we’ll continue to refine it.”

The Fairmount Building houses 122 Delta High and 80 Delta Middle students, and the additional expansion to would enable 160 Delta High and 120 Delta Middle students to be schooled in the State High North Building.

“There’s a need in the community, and I think it’s pretty obvious through the numbers of families and students choosing other nontraditional schools,” Delta Program Director Jon Downs said. “We didn’t know at the onset how enrollment would go (for Delta Middle), and it took off, so much that we couldn’t fulfill the need for all the students who wanted to be in the program.”

Delta Middle, which added fifth- and sixth-grade programs this year, had a waiting list of about 20 students to enroll in the program at the start of the school year. Administrators expect the Delta program will continue to increase in popularity for students.

Downs will be at the meeting Monday to discuss the state of the Delta Program and its future with the board.

The design team’s plan to submit its first PlanCon application this month has prompted the board to decide whether to expand original plans for the Delta program. The school district could receive $5 million to $6 million from PlanCon funding based on original plans.

“Delta Middle would become a part of the educational program within the project, and it would qualify for more reimbursement from the state, so that would mean additional funding from the state for the project,” O’Donnell said.

The board will vote on whether or not to approve the project team’s 30 percent complete design plans after its vote on adding $4.5 million to the project.

It is likely the board will approve the plans to avoid the costs of redoing them, of missing out on a PlanCon reimbursement and of pushing back the project’s construction phase.

Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates, the project’s architects, and Massaro Construction Management Services, the project manager, also presented independent estimated costs for the project to the board.

The firms’ estimates — CRA estimated $118 million and MCMS estimated $124 million — were each over the project’s $115 million budget.

The school board, however, voted 5-4 to cap the project at $115 million at its Sept. 13, 2013, meeting.

The school was awarded a $2 million grant for gold LEED certification, and could be awarded with a PlanCon reimbursement, which would bring school-funded costs down.

“We’re proposing the Delta Middle piece be above and beyond the project,” O’Donnell said. “We’re not asking our board to take away from the program for high school students, and my concern would be to do that would be to take away valuable programming space from high school students.”

“With that said, the community approved an $85 million referendum,” he said. “We are not able to go beyond that. If the Delta Middle program is approved to be a part of the project in a manner that we’re proposing to go above and beyond what the project’s scope was, to fund that would have to come through other avenues, such as capital reserve funds.”

The firms will provide cost estimates at the 60 and 90 percent complete design reviews.