State College

Public responds to SCASD elementary school plan

Caroline Eckhardt said one of her favorite morning routines is waking up and seeing kids walk to school.

She said it’s a “lively” activity that makes her feel like she’s part of an “active” and “tight-knit” community.

Corl Street Elementary is a school where her four children attended, and a place she said is the anchor of the Holmes-Foster neighborhood in State College.

But the State College Area School District is threatening to close the school and “repurpose” the facility. District Director of Physical Plant Ed Poprik said the building would still be owned by the district, but possibly renovated for another use.

The other option is to keep it an elementary school and renovate the space by adding a new gym and making the facility “more modern,” Poprik said.

But some locals are urging the district to take the repurposing option off the table.

“There was some conversation that, ‘If you have to spend money to repurpose it anyway, then why not keep it a K-5 school?’ ” said Dan Packer, a State College resident who lives near the school. “I think that’s everyone’s point.”

Poprik said a demographics study will be conducted that will help the district determine if it’s worth closing the elementary school and sending its students to other nearby schools.

4 schools could be affected by State College Area elementary school master plan

Corl Street is one of four elementary schools that the district plans to update, renovate and/or consolidate as part of a larger elementary school master plan.

The others include Radio Park Elementary School and a potential merger of Lemont Elementary with Houserville Elementary School.

At a public forum Wednesday night at Corl Street Elementary, Poprik said the student population is declining, which is one of the determining factors in the elementary school changes.

Potential construction could start in August 2017 and last about 16 months

Adoption of a final plan is slated for October by the nine-member school board and regular updates will be available to the public until construction starts in August 2017, according to a report from the district.

Construction is expected to last about 16 months.

But the school board isn’t locked into a decision yet.

Board President Amber Concepcion said the board will identify all options before making a decision.

It includes taking finances, demographics and public input into consideration, Concepcion said.

“That’s why we’re here,” Concepcion said. “We want to get feedback, but also see what’s in the best interest of the school (district),” she said.

About 80 people were in attendance Wednesday at the first community engagement meeting held by district administration.

The majority of residents were in favor of keeping the facility a kindergarten to fifth-grade school. A CDT reporter spoke with many residents, none of which were found to support the changes.

“I’m personally very invested in the idea that it’s a districtwide decision, but that the districtwide decision can support small, walkable schools like Corl Street,” resident Rebecca Wilson Lundin said. “I recently moved to the area. I lived in Bellefonte before and decided to move to State College and chose (the) Holmes-Foster (neighborhood) for Corl Street.”

Lundin said her children will attend Corl Street Elementary next school year.

“I would have bought elsewhere if it weren’t for this school,” she said. “There’s just a lot to like about the school and parents who are very passionate about it.”

About 80 guests split into brainstorming groups during community engagement meeting

Lundin was part of a group of locals tasked with brainstorming ideas for the district.

Eckhardt, another member of the group, said one of the focuses was promoting the small school environment.

“I had four children who went here that had a variety of abilities and borderline disabilities,” she said. “This was the best overall part of their generally good State College education. The middle school and high school were good, but the elementary (school) was tops. This school is great because it caters to all individuals.”

Other public comments included asking the borough to be involved in the decision-making process. Some residents said they thought if the school shut down, it would attract a community of more renters.

Another group of people said they would be willing to pay more to keep Corl Street as an elementary school.

And others said because Corl Street is a community-based school where a large student population walks to school, if closed, some residents would consider sending their kids to a nearby charter school solely based on the proximity to their homes.

Having this community be strong is crucial to having State College be something other than a university town. But we need to be able to attract young professionals and families here. And I think the school is an important part of that

Rebecca Wilson Lundin, State College resident

“Having this community be strong is crucial to having State College be something other than a university town,” Lundin said. “But we need to be able to attract young professionals and families here. And I think the school is an important part of that.”

Corl Street Elementary School Principal Scott Mato wouldn’t comment on his opinions of the possible plans for the school, but said he thought it was important to involve the community.

“It’s a good process and conversation to have because this affects more than just the people who work here,” he said.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

SCASD elementary school project options

Option 1

Radio Park

Additions/renovations

Houserville

Additions/renovations

Corl Street

Additions/renovations

Lemont

Repurpose

Option 2

Radio Park

Additions/renovations

Houserville

Additions/renovations

Corl Street

Repurpose

Lemont

Repurpose

Option 3

Radio Park

New construction

Houserville

New construction

Corl Street

Additions/renovations

Lemont

Repurpose

Option 4

Radio Park

New construction

Houserville

New construction

Corl Street

Repurpose

Lemont

Repurpose

Option 5

Radio Park

Additions/renovations

Houserville

New construction

Corl Street

Additions/renovations

Lemont

Repurpose

Option 6

Radio Park

Additions/renovations

Houserville

New construction

Corl Street

Repurpose

Lemont

Repurpose

Option 7

Radio Park

New construction

Houserville

Additions/renovations

Corl Street

Additions/renovations

Lemont

Repurpose

Option 8

Radio Park

New construction

Houserville

Additions/renovations

Corl Street

Repurpose

Lemont

Repurpose

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