Education

Young Scholars expansion plans underway

Construction at Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School includes parking lot expansion.
Construction at Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School includes parking lot expansion. adrey@centredaily.com

It’s going to be a busy couple years at Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School as it undergoes an expansion starting this summer that, in total, could add more than 40,000 square feet of space to the Westerly Parkway building.

The land development plan for the expansion, which was previously approved by the school’s board of trustees as a way to accommodate the school’s growing student population, was unanimously approved last month by the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors.

The township planning commission reviewed the beginning phases of the plan in April, which include the construction of a second floor to host more classrooms, more parking spaces and a renovated driveway to better accommodate dropoff and pickup for buses and parents.

Building management also teamed up with architects, engineers and constructions crews to make sure disruption to student learning is minimal.

School CEO Levent Kaya said that includes working during the summers while school is out of session.

Phase I, which starts this summer, includes adding 20 parking spaces and an 8,000-square-foot second-floor wing.

Phase II, planned to start by next summer, includes more construction to the building for a high school.

Overview

Teacher and communications coordinator Crystal Confer said the multiphase plan could add more than 40,000 square feet of building space to the school’s Westerly Parkway location.

The facility is currently about 26,000 square feet and serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Confer said additions will include a full-sized gymnasium and amenities, 16 classrooms, six offices and a conference room. There is also potential to add a second cafeteria.

Growth

There are two growth patterns that led school administrators to seek more space and parking, Kaya said.

One pattern stems from what he called “bottom-up growth.”

“Since the 2012-13 school year, we have responded to community interest by opening three kindergarten classes, which have, over time, created three sections of first, second and third (grades), and this coming year, fourth grades,” Kaya said.

Administration projects to have three sections of fourth-graders in 2016-17 school year, three sections of fifth-graders in 2017-18 and three sections of sixth-graders in 2018-19.

“Discussions to expand from bottom took place sometime in the 2011-12 school year,” Kaya said. “We have been working toward opening up our high school since around that time as well. These decisions are based on analysis of data trends and surveys of teachers and parents that are presented to our board.”

Construction

This summer, an additional 20 parking spaces and an 8,000-square-foot second-floor wing for kindergarten and first grade will be under construction.

The second floor is part of Phase I of the expansion plan, and includes seven classrooms, four offices, one conference room, a staff lounge and storage space.

“This improvement will meet our needs for K-8 for the next few years,” Kaya said. “Our expanded building will then be sufficient for our growth in K-6.”

Two additional sections also will be added to the school this year, which include fourth- and sixth-grade classes. There are also more planned Chinese, Spanish and music classes that will allow the school to hire enough teachers to fill three full-time roles.

Phase II includes additional space planned from seventh to 12th grades — when and if the high school is approved, Kaya said.

The remainder of the construction will happen after the 2016-17 school year, Confer said.

Kaya said an expansion is necessary due to “growth” and “high interest” in the school.

“Our families want us to provide K-12 education to all our students, expecting us to expand to high school so our students get a complete program at Young Scholars,” Kaya said.

Administration will apply for high school accreditation this year, Kaya said.

Young Scholars ended the 2015-16 school year with 334 students from several central Pennsylvania school districts including Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte, Bellwood-Antis, Clearfield, Huntington, Mifflin, Moshannon Valley, Penns Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola, State College and Tyrone.

Who’s doing the work

After the plans were approved by the board, an architect and an engineer were hired, Kaya said.

“Based on the drawings, the engineer prepared and applied for a zoning permit, which was obtained,” Kaya said. “We are about to obtain a building permit. This project is carried out by the owner of the property. Negotiations and agreement between our school and the owner of the property took place while plans were drawn and permits were applied for.”

LeFevre Wilk Architects and Stahl Sheaffer Engineering are involved in the expansion process as they have been since 2007. The owner, Dream Schools Inc., conducted bidding to select Penn State Construction Company for Phase I.

What’s next

Phase II expansion is planned to be carried out through the school year and into summer of 2017, Kaya said.

“The zoning permits can take a long time and a lot of effort,” he said. “The biggest portion of the effort will be toward the traffic impact study.”

According to a report from the school, an entrance to the campus from Blue Course Drive might be considered — which will require crews to move a wetland, provide other methods for water treatment and apply for variances for the storm water basin.

If and when this permit is obtained, Phase II construction will start on its grounds and facility expansion, Kaya said.

“This is a big challenge, as we typically have only about three months to work on construction,” he said.

Phase II construction proposes an additional and connected building on the premises so the construction can start as soon as the permits are obtained before the 2016-17 school year ends.

“Phase II construction will add another building to the current one so disruption to students will not be an issue once all the safety precautions are taken and plans and precautions are communicated with the school community,” Kaya said.

Dream Schools Inc. is carrying the construction costs, though Young Scholars is a renter of the building.

Rent costs $38,868 per month.

“In essence, additional space is additional rent for us,” Kaya said.

He did not know the cost of the additional rent, or the estimated construction costs.

The CDT could not get in touch with the owners.

The cost also doesn’t necessarily affect public schools that shell out a certain amount of money for special and regular education students who attend charter schools.

“Technically, it doesn’t affect us,” Bellefonte Area Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean said. “We pay based on our costs per student. What is happening is that the amount we pay and other schools pay is more than they need, so they can afford to expand.”

Dream School Inc. also is in the process of securing tax-exempt bond financing for Phase I and II construction, Kaya said.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

Young Scholars growth

Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School got its charter in 2005.

The founder and board members started working on the charter a few years prior to approval.

It was then started as a kindergarten to fifth-grade school, and it expanded to a middle school in 2006.

School CEO Levent Kaya said the eighth-grade class of 2010 was the first full middle school class to graduate.

The school is also an International Baccalaureate candidate school.

Kaya said an authorization visit is scheduled in December.

“Once approved, we will become a prestigious IB World School, sometime in the Spring of 2017,” Kaya said. “We are in the process of being authorized for the Middle Years Programme (MYP), which will be a model for our high school application as well.”

Kaya said there are only eight IB schools in the commonwealth that provide MYP.

Britney Milazzo

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