School Board Gets Survey Results, Will Vote to Eliminate Options Next Week
July 15, 2013 7:18 PM
by Laura Nichols
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The community has spoken, and an overwhelming majority agrees the State College Area High School needs an upgrade. Of the 6,751 surveys mailed to households within the district, 1,857 people completed the survey and the results were presented to the State College Area School Board of Directors at a work session Monday night. 

Of the 1,857 respondents, 1,667 were registered voters and the district used responses from that sampling. A whopping 91 percent of respondents say they believe the high school facilities need to be renovated. According to the survey, maximizing student safety and security was ranked as a "very important factor" in evaluating the merits of a plan for the high school project by the greatest number of respondents.

Lower long-term operational and maintenance costs and a design for future flexibility to satisfy the educational program also ranked as high priorities.

Of the six high school project concepts, labeled A-F, respondents chose options B, D and E, with the percentage of support coming in at 70, 61 and 51, respectively. Concept B would include additions and renovations to both of the existing North and South buildings, with a walkway or bridge across Westerly Parkway. Students would continue to use both buildings during the school day.

Concept D would also be located on Westerly Parkway, and would involve major additions and renovations to the South building so that all core academic classes would be on one side of the street. Portions of existing North building would be retained for student and community use, including the natatorium and gymnasium.

Concept E would be a new 9-12 building at a new site off Westerly Parkway.

Concepts A, C and F have the least amount of support at 42, 26 and 22 percent, respectively. The board has a "downselect" process and members are expected to vote to eliminate those three concepts at next week's regular meeting because none of them meet the minimum 50 percent community support to remain on the table for consideration.

Board members hope to have a final high school project concept in place when it goes to a referendum in May 2014. In order to pass a referendum to fund the high school project, a "yes" vote by a simple majority of voters is required. The results of the survey indicate not only which concepts may receive that 50 percent vote, but also the level of investment the community is prepared to make in order to fund the project.

As part of the survey, respondents were asked to indicate what percentage tax increase they would approve as well as a dollar amount for the referendum question.

Ed Poprik, Director of Physical Plant, provided the board with an update on the Memorial Field renovations. The biggest hurdles to date have been the rains and subsequent flooding that caused a retaining wall along Fraser Street to collapse. A section of the street was closed during the Arts Festival and even threatened to destroy some construction equipment. 

Despite some unexpected events caused by recent storms, Poprik says the field should still be completed and ready to be used by sports teams on Sept. 13. The new turf should arrive by next Wednesday, he says. 

"The project is going to look very different very quickly over the next couple of weeks," Poprik says, noting that construction will pick up speed. Bleachers will be installed by August.

No action was taken at the work session Monday night, but the board will vote next week.

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