Community Involvement Crucial to Success of High School Project

Centre Daily Times Op-Ed, Jan. 22, 2013

Community Involvement Crucial to Success of High School Project

by Penni Fishbaine, State College Area School District, Board President
     and Amber Concepcion, Board Vice President

It is an honor to serve the State College community as stewards of excellent public education. The Board of School Directors values the community’s trust that we will fulfill our responsibilities with integrity and competence. We are committed to working with the community as we approach a challenging but exciting building project, updating our high school facilities to provide an infrastructure that will meet this community’s needs for the coming decades.

We believe this is the right time to invest in high school facilities that will meet the needs of our students and that this work must not be deferred any longer. The current buildings have not been renovated since they were built in 1957, and these facilities, which require significant structural repair, no longer meet the needs of our students. Although previous plans to rebuild the high school led to controversy and the abandonment of a 2006 initiative, it is time to move forward. A strong educational infrastructure is vital to our local economy and to the next generation in our community.

Focusing on the future of our high school facilities, we are inviting all residents of the State College Area School District to participate in a series of community forums. The first forum will be held Wednesday, January 23, 2013, from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. in State College High School South auditorium. Just prior to the forum, District staff and students will be hosting optional tours of our high school buildings. These guided tours will be departing from the High School South auditorium lobby beginning at 5:30 p.m., with the last tour leaving at 6:00 p.m.

The purpose of the January 23 forum is to share:
a) an overview of why we are asking the community to consider a building project;
b) an update on the project’s calendar and process, including a referendum;
c) an update regarding site options being studied at this time; and
d) aspects of the educational planning process to date.

John Beddia of Crabtree Rohrbaugh and Associates, the contracted architects, and Amy Yurko of Brainspaces, Inc., the educational planning firm assisting with the development of this project, will be sharing their work to date and will be gathering community input. Ms. Yurko will discuss the goals of the educational planning process, including the development of the project’s design principles, which will be used as parameters for the architects’ schematic design work.

During each part of the agenda, attendees will be able to provide feedback to the District and Board of School Directors. The forum will conclude with a question and answer session.

The preliminary work now being conducted by our contracted architects (Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates), and by the educational planning firm (Brainspaces, Inc.) follows upon the 2009 District Wide Facilities Master Planning process, led by Dr. Bill DeJong. The 2009 process has already succeeded in the opening two new elementary schools in our district, Mt. Nittany Elementary and Ferguson Township Elementary. We do not intend to duplicate work that has already been done on the high school but to build upon that foundation and to update our plans in accordance with community guidance. We are working toward a referendum on this project, in which we will ask the community, at the voting booth, to give the District permission to proceed.

We look forward to meeting many of you at these upcoming events and to working together with you as we develop plans for this crucial project.