School Board Discusses Community Engagement with High School Project
As the State College Area School District begins to make movement on the high school project, the board of directors emphasized a priority of transparency and engaging the entire community.
Immediately following a brief regular board meeting, which began at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, the State College Area Board of Directors discussed ways to include the community in each step of the decision-making process and keep it relevant and exciting for each of them, from students to residents who don't have children in the district.
The district's new educational planner, Amy Yurko, from Brainspaces, Inc., said she recently toured the school with a group of students to gauge how they utilize the high school, whether it be where they eat lunch to carry backpacks versus stashing supplies in lockers.
No vote could be taken on Monday night, but board members said they want to find a way to poll the community regarding the location of the new State College Area High School. Many members said they want to see it stay where it is, on Westerly Parkway. Previously, community members expressed the same sentiment, though it was too small of a sample size to draw an adequate conclusion.
"There's a lot of support sitting around that table for what our community has been telling us for a decade," Dr. Jim Pawelczyk said.
Director of Physical Plant Ed Poprik said there is a plan to poll the community through social media, phone calls, online forms and write-in ballots. The first survey could be conducted by February, he said.
The referendum process was also explained, as it could begin in Oct. 2013. The process would ask the community to vote on one question the board decides to ask that would decide whether the new high school could be built.
A referendum can occur on a federal election day, but the board has leeway to decide when it wants to hold the election.
The one caveat, however, of choosing an alternate voting date, is cost, which is currently $1,000 per precinct.
One council member said she preferred the board explore only realistic options to give the referendum the best chance of passing.
"I want to hear things that we can feasibly do this," Dorothea Stahl said. "I want this referendum to pass and I feel like the way it will pass is to have the best options for the community. We all know that we're living in a different scenario than three-to-four years ago."
While the board can support the referendum, it cannot publicly endorse it, though other groups are permitted to do so.
Moving forward, the board will discuss voting on a location for the new high school and a public hearing will be held.