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School Board Enters Home Stretch of High School Project Design

by on April 20, 2015 9:29 PM

The State College Area School District is mere days away from asking construction companies for bids on the first steps to transform State High into a brand new school – but exactly how much that will cost depends on who you ask.

Ed Poprik, the school district's director of physical plant, told the State College school board on Monday night that he has a “very aggressive, bordering on unrealistic calendar” for the final stages of the high school project design phase.

Bidding for preliminary site work over the summer will start on April 22, with tentative plans for the school board to approve a bid at its April 27 meeting.

Poprik says that bid approval is contingent on some final approvals from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which are expected to come through within the next week. Then the design team will move into the 90 percent completion phase, nailing down the floor plan and some of the final details that have only been guessed at up until this point.

A groundbreaking ceremony at the high school is currently planned for May 14, although Poprik said whether or not the district will actually be ready to break ground is still up in the air.

“Any delays at this point will directly correlate to our bid awards,” Poprik said. “Hopefully we can move this project along at a timely fashion, but we’ll be struggling to make the dates we have presented.”

The two firms involved in the design of the new high school buildings both have different estimates for how much the project will end up costing.

The Crabtree Rohrbaugh architecture firm thinks the project will come in just under budget at around $124 million. The ELA landscape architecture firm disagrees, placing the project at over $135 million.

That approximately $11 million difference could have come from a number of places. 

The expansion of the Delta Program in the high school north building is a new development that was only worked into the plan over the last few months, which inflated the total project cost. Poprik also said that the two firms used different sets of data to reach their estimates, which may have contributed to the difference.

The estimates may also not match up with bids the district receives from construction firms, which often vary from company to company.

“You could have six different contractors, and there could easily be a three percent swing between the high and low bids,” said Jeff Straub of Crabtree Rohrbaugh.

Regardless of the total cost, only $85 million will come out of new taxes that were approved by State College voters last May. School district representatives have told on numerous occasions that every dollar over $85 million will come from the district’s capital reserve fund and other sources.

SCASD superintendent Robert O’Donnell also asked that anyone who has questions about the high school project to come to a community forum at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the high school south building.



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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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