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Q&A with Jon Downs, Director of State College Area School District’s Delta Program

by on August 15, 2019 5:00 AM

The State College Area School District’s Delta Program is on the move.

Students and staff will have a new home as the school year begins, leaving the longtime space in the Fairmount Building downtown for new quarters at the high school on Westerly Parkway.

The Delta Program was founded in 1974 as the Alternative Program for grades nine through 12. The name Delta, meaning “change,” was chosen in 1993 to better reflect the program’s mission. A middle school program for grades five through eight was added in 2014.

Dr. Jon Downs, who oversees the Delta Program as the district’s director of educational alternatives, discussed the transition to a new home, and what the move means, with Town&Gown. 

T&G: What do you see as the primary mission of the Delta Program?

Downs: The primary mission of the Delta Program is to foster a safe and welcoming environment that builds community amongst students, parents, and staff. We focus on students taking ownership of their education and encouraging teachers to be artists of their content. 

T&G: As we head into late summer, how is the building project/move progressing?

Downs: The building project is moving along. I had the opportunity to take a walk around the building yesterday and am excited about the progress. I think with any construction project, whether it be your own house or, in this case, our school house, you come up against deadlines, road bumps, and other variables that are just part of the process.

From my perspective I know it is going to be chaotic and stressful, but I am embracing that knowing that it is an awesome problem for us to have and work through. We are so appreciative of the community and district supporting this facility and Delta as a program.

T&G: What are the biggest educational and logistical challenges in pulling off the transition to a new building?

Downs: I think the timing is the biggest challenge and waiting for the green light. We are 95 percent packed up and ready to go, but you don’t know when that is exactly going to happen. Most decisions can’t be implemented until we have a date, so we have to be ready for Plan B and Plan C.

T&G: How will the new facilities better help you achieve Delta's mission?

Downs: The new facilities will not impact our mission. The mission comes from the people and culture. No facility will impact that. 

Many of our high school students take classes at State High and as a result of the proximity with the high school, scheduling has become much easier than past years. We have always had the possibility of State High students taking Delta classes and feel that this opportunity will be more feasible with them just having to cross the street. 

We are looking forward to a climate-controlled facility, full ADA accessibility, and making the school our own while honoring the past. We plan on bringing all the murals with us and other certain aspects of Fairmount that we hold close to our hearts. 

T&G: The Fairmount Building has a lot of history. What will you miss – and not miss – about it?

Downs: I will miss the immediate proximity to downtown and the vibes that come from that. 

I will not miss the parking issues, fumes from the physical plant shop in the basement, beer cans in the bushes on Monday mornings, 95 or 55 degree classrooms, and high school students having to cross Atherton. 

T&G: What excites you the most about the new space?

Downs: We see it is a new canvas for us to define and design our space once we are living there. I am excited for the Delta community to have all the perks that come with living in a newly constructed space. 

T&G: Anything you'd like to add about Delta or the move?

Downs: We will be having a grand opening for the entire community in conjunction with State High this fall and we encourage people to check it out. 

 

Mark Brackenbury is editorial director of Town&Gown.

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