Estimated cost of State High project increases by more than $25 million

Construction of “pod D” which will be classrooms begins in front of the old State College Area High School South Building on Wednesday, July 20, 2016.
Construction of “pod D” which will be classrooms begins in front of the old State College Area High School South Building on Wednesday, July 20, 2016.

State College Area School District plans to make State High a little bigger than what was originally proposed in construction project plans.

And with larger square footage comes a higher estimated cost of construction.

District administrators said they’re still trying to figure out a way to pay for it all that doesn’t go beyond expanding the original estimated budget.

Construction on the State College Area High School project broke ground about a year ago.

The plan is to demolish the school and replace it with a two-building campus at its current location on Westerly Parkway.

And district spokesman Chris Rosenblum said construction is on schedule.

While estimated total costs exceed $140 million, district business manager Randy Brown said a total cost won’t be known until the end of the construction period — pending change orders.

“Fortunately change orders to date have resulted in a reduction to construction cost,” Brown said.

A change order is work added to or deleted from the original contract, which alters the original amount and/or completion date.

In the 2014 election, residents of the State College Area School District voted on a referendum for the district to borrow $85 million to finance the construction of a new high school on a then-estimated $115 million design.

“Although the budget did not officially increase above $115 (million), the cost estimates throughout the design phase reflected the increased square footage and resulting (in) increased costs,” Brown said in an emailed statement when asked why the estimated total increased by more than $25 million.

“The board approved square footage increases to the project for Delta high and middle levels, physical education and performing arts,” he added.

District Director of Physical Plant Ed Poprik said the referendum estimate was based on a 587,000-square-foot facility.

The current plan is about 660,000-square-feet.

Referendum debt will be repaid during a 25-year period, but the repayment period — or term of the remaining debt — has yet to be determined, Brown said.

The board also committed $10 million from capital reserve funds.

The remaining costs will be financed by debt, which will be repaid through the general operating budget, Brown said.

Brown said the district expects to pay for additional costs through tax millage included in the current budget as “other district debt service is retired in the upcoming years.”

The first graduating class from the completed school on Westerly Parkway will be the 2019-20 senior class. Starting in 2017-18, students will attend classes in completed portions of the school, Poprik said.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

Summer construction

Work this summer will continue with foundation, masonry walls, structural steel framework and utility connections.

“You’ll be able to see the building footprints when students return,” Massaro Construction project manager Tim Jones said. “They’ll be fully established.”

District spokesman Chris Rosenblum said demolition will be completed on the main lower South Building classroom wing. In the fall, new construction at this location will begin to connect the four units to the rest of the facility.

Utility work will continue behind the South Building, along with some above-ground utility work in the North Building parking lot.

The plan is to minimize disruptions to school bus drop-offs and pick-ups in the fall, Rosenblum said.

Crews this summer will also lay stormwater pipes across Westerly Parkway near Welch Community Swimming Pool, and work on a stormwater detention basin on the site of the former driver’s education course on the north side.

The basin will collect roof and ground runoff from the site, Rosenblum said.

“As per (Environmental Protection Department) regulations, measures are in place to process muddy water from the construction site and keep it from entering the stormwater system,” Rosenblum said in an email. “Once the school is finished, absorbent grass and other vegetation will be planted on its banks.”

The loop drive around the back of South Building is closed for utility extensions and retaining wall construction, and all community pool parking is across the street at the north campus, district Director of Physical Plant Ed Poprik said.

Britney Milazzo