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With construction complete, new State College Area elementary schools to open

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: People tour the main cooridor of the school. Mt. Nittany Elementary School is complete and will be open for the first day of school. CDT/Nabil K. Mark August 23, 2011 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

TUESDAY, AUGUST 30, 2011

BY ED MAHON

The three Wolf sisters took an early tour of the new Mount Nittany Elementary School building earlier last week. They had rave reviews.

“It’s very roomy,” said 12-year-old Madelyn.

“A lot of sunlight,” said 9-year-old Lydia. “It’s awesome,” said her twin, Audrey. The State College Area School District spent about $16 million to construct the school and another $16 million on renovations and additions to Ferguson Township Elementary School.

Both are scheduled to welcome students today for the first day of school. And both have significant differences from other district construction projects.

Their multi-purpose rooms — which function as cafeterias, gyms and auditoriums — are larger than those in any of the district’s other elementary schools. They are the sixth and seventh district buildings that will have air conditioning. And they are the first district buildings designed to earn LEED certification for being environmentally friendly.

“How are we looking on that?” board member Jim Leous asked at a meeting last week.

“We’re in great shape,” responded Ed Poprik, the district’s physical plant director who’s overseen the two projects. “We are in really great shape. …That’ll flesh out during the commissioning process. But we all believe we’ll be LEED gold certified.”

LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, ranks buildings based on energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions and other environmental categories.

Schools that receive higher than LEED silver certification are eligible for more reimbursement from the state. In State College’s case, Poprik said it’s likely the district will qualify for 10 percent general reimbursement for construction costs. With LEED silver certification, the reimbursement works out to an extra 10 percent of that total general reimbursement — so 10 percent of 10 percent.

“That wasn’t the driving factor,” said Poprik. “The board’s primary interest was environmental stewardship and long-term operating costs. … Over the life of the building, all of these things … will pay for themselves.”

Read more: With construction complete, new State College Area elementary schools to open.

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Loyal Centre Hall tenter shares chair craft

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: Ardell Gross works on caning a chair in his tent at the Grange Fair on Friday, August 26, 2011. CDT/Christopher Weddle

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

SUNDAY, AUGUST 28, 2011

BY ED MAHON

Owner: Ardell Gross, an 85-year-old Centre Hall resident, Navy veteran, and retired food service supervisor at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview.

“I only missed one fair that I know of,” said Gross, “and that was during the Second World War.”

That year he was in the South Pacific.

Address: North-7 #30

Tradition: Almost 50 years ago, Gross learned how to weave the chair seats together, a process called caning. Now every day he comes to the fair, he brings two chairs to work on.

Decorations: There are NASCAR blankets on the two cots, and a Peanuts-themed wood decoration outside. Under Charlie Brown’s picture is Gross’ name. Next to that is an image of Lucy, identified as Gross’ late wife, Ruth.

How he learned to cane: A neighbor, who was in her 70s at the time, taught him.

“At that time, she got three hanks (about 3000 feet) of caning. And three hanks of caning cost $21 and some cents.” he said.

“And I said, ‘Oh God, I can’t afford that.’ And my wife said, ‘You want to learn how to cane. You have her get it. We’ll stretch   something.’ ”

The material: “They call it rattan. And I get mine from H.H. Perkins,” said Gross.

It’s a type of palm that Gross soaks before weaving it through holes. It hardens as it dries.

There are multiple layers of rattan in each seat.

How long it takes: “I used to be able to do a 64 hole chair in eight hours,” Gross said, “and I could stop to have a sandwich and a bowl of soup.”

Using the knife: “I’m high strung to start with, and people can’t figure out how I sit and do that. As a matter of fact, I’ve been known, when I have a chair about this far,” he said pointing to one that only needed one-and-a-half more layer of rattan to complete, “to take my knife and cut it all out and start all over.”

Ed Mahon can be reached at 231-4619.

Read more: Loyal Centre Hall tenter shares chair craft.

An eye for detail: Judges look for perfection among entries

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: Michele Morgan, of Newport, examines a knit hat while judging some of the crafts in the Grange Building at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair on Friday, August 26, 2011. CDT/Christopher Weddle

BY ED MAHON

SATURDAY, AUGUST 29, 2011

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

CENTRE HALL — Michele Morgan lifted the towel close to her eyes. She rubbed her hands across the picture cross-stitched onto the front. Then she flipped the item over.

“The back should be almost as neat as the front,” she said. “Here they put a fabric over it, but you can see the strings. That should have been clipped off.”

Morgan was one of more than a dozen judges at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair tasked with selecting the best items submitted in hundreds of categories; apple pies, canned vegetables, photographs, crocheted sweaters and collections are just a few examples.

In all, close to 6,000 items are submitted annually, and the winners were picked Friday.

Morgan, of Newport, Perry County, was judge in the needlecraft category. She’s been involved with fairs since she was 9, and she has a judge certification from Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs.

On Friday, while looking at embroidered towels, she eyed the different techniques: One had French stitch, one had a simpler knot stitch, and the other had a cross-stitch combined with a running stitch.

“1142 is first,” she told Amy Eckley, a Grange Fair volunteer from Bellefonte. “Second is 199. Third is 157.”

Read more: An eye for detail: Judges look for perfection among entries.

Wonderland charter school gets OK to expand

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

TUESDAY, AUGUST 9, 2011

BY ED MAHON

STATE COLLEGE — Wonderland Charter School will accept first, second-and third-grade students starting this September, as the State College Area school board approved expansion plans Monday night.

“We’re very pleased,” Wonderland Charter School CEO Hal Ohnmeis said. “It’s been a very collaborative effort.”

Wonderland board member Michael Pusateri said he was “very happy. I wish we were in a position to have expanded when my kids were younger.”

Ohnmeis and other leaders from the Ferguson Township charter school have been working on expanding for two-and-a-half years and they’ve been in talks with the district since December.

While they waited for a decision, they ordered curriculum material and interviewed more than 40 teachers for three openings — two new ones, and the other to replace a teacher who’s leaving. Ohnmeis said they’ll be ready to open Sept. 6.

Read more: Wonderland charter school gets OK to expand.

New State College Area marching band directors feeling the beat.

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: State College Area High School band director Paul Leskowicz watches the marching band practice at the high school on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. CDT/Christopher Weddle 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 24, 2011

BY ED MAHON

STATE COLLEGE — The siren of a passing ambulance disrupted the State College Area High School students’ first shot at playing “In The Stone” by Earth, Wind and Fire.

And the heat could probably be blamed for some sluggishness on the second attempt.

“We are really slowing down at this point. …There are people not even walking back to steps. Schlepping back to steps,” Paul Leskowicz told almost 200 musicians gathered in the parking lot of the State College Area High School South Building. “Remember the level and standard of excellence that we have set — that has been set and will continue to be set. You need to live up to that.”

Leskowicz and new assistant band director Johanna Steinbacher also have a lot to live up to. They replace the duo of Rich Victor and John Kovalchik, Penn State graduates and Blue Band alumni who led State College’s marching band for 35 years before retiring earlier this year.

Read more: New State College Area directors feeling the beat.

 

Bald Eagle Area School District leaders look again at drilling leases

August 22, 2011 Leave a comment

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

SUNDAY, AUG.22, 2011

BY ED MAHON

BOGGS TOWNSHIP — In January 2007, landmen made Bald Eagle Area school board members an offer.

They wanted permission to drill into hundreds of acres of district land, hoping to extract natural gas from a formation that few people had heard about: the Marcellus Shale.

The two sides negotiated and agreed that T.S. Dudley Land Co., of Oklahoma, would pay $125 an acre to lease the mineral rights to about 224 acres north of South Eagle Valley Road, behind the high school, and to 330 acres south of the road, behind administration offices.

That deal netted the district $69,226 over the next five years — that’s roughly enough to cover the salary for one teacher, earning the district average of $44,640, for about a year and a half.

“At that time, I think most people in the area thought that was a fair price,” said Bald Eagle Area School District Superintendent Dan Fisher, adding that the district consulted with a Williamsport attorney before signing the deal.

Four and a half years later, no drilling has taken place on district land, gas companies have paid 10 times as much or more for such leases, and district leaders want to negotiate new contracts.

But they may be stuck with the two current leases until 2017. The gas company that now owns the leases, Chesapeake Energy, can opt to renew them, provided it meets certain, fairly broad, conditions.

In July, The Associated Press reported that thousands of Pennsylvania residents signed lowball leases in the years preceding the state’s gas drilling boom.

In some cases, landowners leased their mineral rights for as low as $2 or $3 an acre. On some land, landowners say gas companies have done minimal drilling with the goal not of finding gas, but renewing favorable leases. Some of those landowners have filed lawsuits.

“There’s just too much money at stake — between a $3 lease and a $7,500 lease — for the operators to walk away from,” Robert Jones, an attorney in Endicott, N.Y., told the AP. He represented a group of landowners who sued successfully in federal court to shed their old leases. “They’re desperate to hold on to them like the landowners are desperate to get rid of them.”

It’s not clear exactly how much Bald Eagle Area could get for a new lease.

Outside consultants recently told board members that gas companies have been willing to pay $1,500 to $2,000 per acre for similar leases.

Eric Cummings, a Clearfield attorney who specializes in natural gas and oil real estate issues, said in 2010 companies were paying between $1,500 and $3,500 in the Centre County area.

If Bald Eagle Area’s original leases had been negotiated at $1,500 per acre, the district would have taken in about $831,000 for the first five years.

“At the time that this was negotiated, this was a very new business,” said Bald Eagle Area school board member Tom Letterman. “So we were all learning.”

Read more: Bald Eagle Area School District leaders look again at drilling leases.

Thursday, May 22, 2008, Section: , Page: , Matches: , Word Count: 000000  Caption: Bald Eagle Area School District Superintendent Dan Fisher points to Centre County’s place in the Marcellus Shale distribution on Thursday, May 22, 2008.

 

Penns Valley gets OK to install bus cameras

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2011

BY ED MAHON

PENN TOWNSHIP — All Penns Valley Area School District buses and vans that transport students will have high-tech cameras and GPS devices on them this school year, as board members unanimously approved spending $67,000 on purchasing and installing the gear from AngelTrax.

The goals are to improve student behavior on buses, prevent bullying, reduce the amount of time administrators have to spend dealing with discipline issues that start on buses, and enhance the performance review of drivers.

“By the first of November, we should be up and operating barring any problems,” Penns Valley Area School District Business Manager Jef Wall told the board Wednesday night, later adding, “We expect improved safety.”

Read more: Penns Valley gets OK to install bus cameras.