Update on the fate of the old William Penn High School

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A meeting was held Thursday with the appointed task force to address the fate of the historic William Penn High School building.

It was the first time the task force heard ideas and suggestions.

“Everyone wants this to happen,” said task force member Melanie Cook.

At the end of September, the bankruptcy administrator appointed by the district court, Dr. Lori Suski assembled the task force.

It consists of 27 officials and community members and has been tasked with exploring all possible options for what the district could do with the old William Penn High School building.

“With concepts that make sense on multiple levels, we can provide education, it’s an income generation opportunity and it’s training for young people and training for adults and it can attract mentors from Harrisburg again,” Cook said.

Nine task force members formed a Careers and Technology Subcommittee, which proposed several ideas, including using the building for:

Environmental responsibility and climate technology

Harrisburg Academy of Theater, Art and Music

Cottage Industry shared workspace

The Entrepreneur Incubator

Language Academy

Alternative education

Dining/special event venue and training room

Video gaming and artificial intelligence certification initiatives in high schools are being developed in collaboration with Harrisburg University

PA State Police and Harrisburg Fire & Police Public Safety Academy

“This is a time of rebirth in this community,” Cook said.

Task force member Vern McKissick of McKissick Associates Architects presented his idea to convert the building into workspace, offices, conference rooms and a food café. The ideas are endless.

“I think we have the potential at William Penn to do something different to reduce it, separate it and make it manageable by separating mechanical systems and renovations,” McKissick said.

But for others, that’s not the focus.

“The purpose of this task force is to figure out how we retain William Penn. We have no intention of doing anything with it other than what it was intended for,” said a member of the task force.

The big thing is the financing, which is still being sorted out.

There are three meetings left. The final idea will be shared with the school board and community in January.

James Brien

James Brien is a WSTNewsPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. James Brien joined WSTNewsPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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