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January 19, 2014

School will exceed average sizes, data shows

LEWISBURG — Whether the Lewisburg Area School District builds a high school covering 165,000 square feet or 180,000 square feet, based on current and projected enrollment numbers, the facility will exceed regional and national averages in size per student.

At the current student population of 582, pupils would have 283 square feet to themselves in a 165,000-square-foot building or 309 square feet in a 180,000 square-foot building.

At the projected near-future student population of 672, pupils would have 245 square feet to themselves in a 165,000-square-foot building or 268 square feet in a 180,000 square-foot building.

The regional average is 217 square feet per student.

That national average is 172.

That’s what is fueling opponents of a new Lewisburg Area High School, who claim the district is building an excessively large facility whose size reflects an upper-class enrollment of 900 students, a number predicted in a feasibility study and not projected in the district for 36 years.

Superintendent Mark DiRocco said the state has approved, under the Planning and Construction Workbook process, a high school designed for 672 students and, by Pennsylvania law, must build for that.

A final design has not been settled, school board President Kathy Swope said, noting officials are awaiting teacher feedback on size and classroom needs before a final determination is made. The new school, to be built on 205 acres in Kelly Township, could range between 165,000 and 180,000 square feet.

The existing high school, on Market Street, in Lewisburg, covers 110,000 square feet, affording 582 students 189 square feet each — nearly halfway between the regional and national averages.

Size can be controlled

Space is an area where schools can control costs, according to the 18th annual School Construction Report by School Planning & Management magazine, released in February 2013.

The report, which reflects 2012 data, states the national average size of a high school has about 172 square feet per student, an increase of 22 square feet from 1995 to 2012. The Downtown Dragons use that 172 square-footage average per student in arguing for a smaller high school. They’re pushing for a school of 130,000 square feet, which would give the current 582 students 223 square feet each. They said it would allow comfortable growth up to the projected 925 pupil enrollment cited in the feasibility study, and subsequently cost less.

However, 925 students in a 130,000-square foot building would give each only 140 square feet each, far below regional and state averages.

The school, Superintendent Mark DiRocco said Friday, is designed for 672 students, not 925 the group cites.

In the annual study, Pennsylvania is grouped into “Region 2” with New Jersey and New York. Region 2 has an average high school size of about 217 square feet per student and the nation, 172.

The high school’s size “was based on more than five years of study, analysis and planning,” DiRocco said.

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