STATE COLLEGE - If a referendum is passed in May 2014, the State College Area High School could receive a major overhaul.
Gone will be the days of crossing traffic between the two major buildings and its campus-like setting. The school, located parallel with Westerly Parkway, has what is known as the North High School and the South High School.
The North High School was built in 1955 and was meant to serve as a lone high school facility. In 1965 the south building was constructed as a junior high school. As the district grew, a need to turn the two buildings into a single high school was determined, and beginning in the 1981-1982 school year, students were crossing traffic between the two buildings for classes.
Sentinel photos by CHRISTOPHER?SHANNON
Construction continues at Memorial Field, home of many of State College Area High School’s athletic teams. If a ballot referendum passes in May, work will begin to expand State College Area High School’s South Building and eliminate the campus-style two-building setup used now.
This has been the case ever since.
Julie Miller, the Public Information Specialist for the State College Area School District, said after years of examining its options, the school board decided on Sept. 9 to move forward with what is known as "Project D," a large addition to the south building making it one universal high school setting with some functional use of the north building across the street.
The school district hired Crabtree and Rohrbaugh Associates of Mechanicsburg a couple of years ago as architects.
"We did a lot of touring of other high schools (built by the architect)," she said.
The board also hired Brain Spaces Inc., of Chicago to oversee the educational planning of the facility.
Brain Spaces is meant to help the district ask "What are our needs? Where are we educationally?"
Miller noted six general building concepts were presented to the board and to the public to view. The board then commissioned a group to do a random data sampling survey to see what the public had in mind for a school.
"When the results came back, they (the board) narrowed it down to two concepts," Miller said.
The only glitch was getting a new concept to be financed.
The board put a $115 million cap on a new project. A small portion of that cap will be visible to voters this May on a referendum, Miller said. While the board is prepared to pay $10 million immediately, it is unknown how much state funding will be available and what can be taken from the general fund to help with the high school costs. The rest of the money will come from an increase in taxes. A question will be posed to voters to see if they are in favor of a tax increase to complete the project. A simple majority of votes is needed to pass the referendum in the primary next may.
Miller said right now details are being examined to reach an exact cost of the project.
"Now with Project D passed, architects can do schematic drawings and provide more concrete numbers for us."
The architects are also looking into what direction to place the addition - either to the right of the current building or to the front.
The important factor and bottom line to the entire project need is safety, Miller said.
"(The current situation) was never meant to be two high schools," she said.
The new plans "not only keep kids from crossing the street" and facing any traffic, but also, "keeping them from gaining access to their cars between classes."
It was time, she said, for the district to re-scale.
She noted the heating systems in both schools are another concern. The parts are no longer available to fix such outdated systems.
"Things that need to be addressed will most certainly be addressed" in building the new addition, Miller said.