State College

State College school board adds millions to State High project to house Delta Middle program

Everything comes with a price, but not all prices for the same thing are equal.

The price to house the Delta Middle program varies depending on where its students are schooled in the future, and the State College Area school board, at least for now, decided which price it wants to pay.

The board voted 8-1 to conditionally include the Delta Middle program in the State High project’s plans, but that doesn’t mean it will stay. Delta Middle’s inclusion adds 22,000 square feet and $4.5 million to the project.

Board member Jim Pawelczyk motioned for an amended vote, one to include the Delta Middle program on the condition that the administration update Delta Middle’s educational plans and educational specifications.

Board President Penni Fishbaine was the dissenting vote, but said she would have voted yay in a vote without Pawelczyk’s added condition.

“I wanted a vote without a condition, and they put a condition on the administration to bring forth information they were already going to bring forth,” Fishbaine said. “Putting that condition on to me meant that they could possibly slow the project, because at any point in time someone could say we didn’t have enough information where I feel we had enough information to at least, at 30 percent, make the decision to move forward without a condition.”

The board could scale back the expansion partially or completely in the future.

Alternatives to housing the Delta Middle program were identified by the school district’s recently completed District Wide Feasibility Study, which was first reviewed by the board Oct. 27.

Renovating the Fairmount Building, where the Delta Middle program is currently housed, would cost about $20 million. The building is the oldest school district facility. The least costly alternatives, such as renovating other school district facilities, would cost about $8 million.

Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said it is clear that the most cost-effective solution to housing the Delta Middle program is to include it in the State High project.

Delta Program Director Jon Downs said if not included in the State High project, something eventually has to be done for Delta Middle.

“It’s not the building that makes the program, but the people and community that makes the program,” Downs said. “At the same instance, we all agree I think that Fairmount is not a long-term solution for anybody for student programs. If it’s not the second floor of this new facility, it’s got to be somewhere else. Something has to happen over the course of the next three, four, five, six years, whether it’s Fairmount at a higher price tag or another facility.”

The move was prompted in part by the project design team’s submission of PlanCon parts A and B, which the board approved, to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s only architect Nov. 17. The school district could be reimbursed $5 million to $6 million from PlanCon funding based on original plans and could receive more with the Delta Middle program included in the project.

The school district also announced Monday that Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services raised its credit rating from AA- to AA, which O’Donnell said should result in lower interest rates for bonds the school district wants to refinance and for issuing debt for the State High project.

Related to the State High project, the board also approved its 30 percent complete design plans 8-1 and the Districtwide Feasibility Study 9-0.

Board member Laurel Zydney was the lone dissenting vote for the 30 percent complete design plans.