Centre County Schools Among the Best in the State

By Holly Swanson

My family had many reasons for deciding to move back to the State College area six years ago, but the abundance of strong educational opportunities for our then five year old was at the top of the list. The area’s public school districts hold several state rankings in academics, athletics and learning initiatives, while numerous private and charter schools are available to meet a student’s individual interests. 

“The Centre County region really does offer a lot of wonderful and unique educational opportunities,” says Mark Toci, Ph.D., co-founder and teacher at Centre Learning Community (CLC) Charter School.

As our family grew, we were thrilled to find that the area’s exceptional educational opportunities included preschools, as well. Independent and faith-based preschools welcome students from as young as three years old through pre-kindergarten.

Choices abound when it comes to your child’s education in the Centre Region. In fact, there might be more great educational options than there are views of Mount Nittany!

School Districts

Bald Eagle Area School District
751 S. Eagle Valley Road, Wingate
beasd.org

Serving five boroughs and seven townships, Bald Eagle Area School District is small enough to offer students personalized educational experiences, including a wide variety of extra-curricular opportunities. The district also offers a dual enrollment program through which students can earn college credits.

Bellefonte Area School District
318 North Allegheny Street, Bellefonte
www.basd.net

Serving approximately 2,700 students in Bellefonte and the surrounding areas, BASD encourages collaborative learning in four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. The high school offers advanced placement courses in English, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science, Computer Science and Fine Arts. 

BONUS: The school district was the first in the area to be recognized in the state’s School-Wide Positive Behavior program, which develops initiatives for encouraging positive student behaviors.

State College Area School District
131 West Nittany Avenue, State College
www.scasd.org

With a mission of preparing students for lifelong success through excellence in education, SCASD serves nearly 7,000 students in 11 schools. The district has a strong athletics program and offers many advanced courses, including AP calculus and advanced physics. The student-teacher ratio is 23:1 in the elementary schools and 24:1 at the high school.

BONUS: The school district recently voted to add Chinese language courses to its World Language Department and is developing a new construction plan for the high school.

Penns Valley Areas School District
4528 Penns Valley Road, Spring Mills
www.pennsvalley.org

Educating students in Centre Hall, Millheim, and the surrounding townships, Penns Valley Area School District is a rural but progressive district dedicated to creating life-long learners. The high school also has a vibrant fine arts program. 

Private Schools

Grace Prep High School
848 Science Park Road, State College
graceprep.com
Grades: 9-12

Grace Prep is a centrally-located faith-based high school with small class sizes and an extensive list of course offerings. They also offer online classes and unique learning opportunities. 

BONUS: The teachers aim to complete all necessary work during the school day, so most evenings are “homework free.” 

Nittany Christian School
1221 West Whitehall Road, State College
www.nittanychristian.com
Grades: K-5

Celebrating their 40th year in State College, NCS provides a Christ-centered environment that is focused on family and parent involvement. Admission is offered based on a student’s academic history and placement tests.

Our Lady of Victory Catholic School (OLV)
800 Westerly Parkway, State College
www.olvcatholicschool.org
Grades: K-8

OLV prides itself on small class sizes (an average of 20 students per classroom), a supportive, community atmosphere and high standards of learning. The school’s mission is to integrate Catholic truths, values and attitudes with the intellectual and emotional development of its students. Enrollment is open to students of any faith background. 

BONUS: Financial aid is available to families who qualify.

Saint John the Evangelist Catholic School
116 East Bishop Street, Bellefonte
www.saintjohnsch.com
Grades: PreK-5

Founded in 1890, Saint John is a Catholic-based school that encourages and accepts each student’s individual talents, abilities and challenges. The staff believes that every child is a unique gift from God and that all students should experience spiritual, academic, and physical growth each day.

“For 125 years we have been providing a quality and affordable Catholic education for students in Bellefonte and the surrounding areas,” says Principal Kristina Tice. “While we have excellent academics, our focus is on so much more. Generations of students have benefited from our Christ-centered environment, small class size and supportive school family.”

BONUS: Students are involved in service projects throughout the community.

Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy
901 Boalsburg Pike, Boalsburg
www.stjoeacad.org
Grades: 9-12

A relative newcomer to the local education scene, SJCA opened in 2011 and boasts a 100% college acceptance rate among recent graduates. With a family-centered school environment, students are held to high standards of the academic honor code based on honesty, integrity, respect and responsibility.

State College Friends School
1900 University Drive, State College
www.statecollegefriendsschool.org
Grades: PreK-8

The Friends School is an independent, tuition-based, child-centered school founded in the tradition of Quaker values. The students work together outside the constraints of traditional grade levels, allowing younger students to learn from older students. Each class has only 12-20 students, led by a teacher and an assistant, which provides individual instruction and small group learning.

Charter Schools

Centre Learning Community Charter School (CLC)
2643 West College Avenue, State College
www.clccharter.org
Grades: 5-8

CLC is a tuition-free, public middle school that emphasizes learning by doing. 

“We provide a unique, project-based environment that engages students in an exciting environment,” says Toci. “Kids build and construct things as a way to learn and we have two teachers in each classroom, which helps them form meaningful relationships with students and families.” Technology tools, such as SmartBoards in every classroom and MacBooks for each student, give students a hands-on way to learn. Unique course offerings, such as yoga, stained glass and fencing, keep learning fun and creative.

BONUS: Free after-school activities.

Nittany Valley Charter School (NVCS)
1612 Norma Street, State College
www.nvcs.org
Grades: K-8

Students at NVCS enjoy hands-on learning, small class size (6:1 student to teacher ratio), and weekly field trips. An educational focus is placed on environmental studies. 

BONUS: Foreign languages are offered. 

Wonderland Charter School
2112 Sandy Drive, State College, Pa
www.wonderlandcharter.com
Grades: K-5

After opening as a kindergarten-only school in 1999, Wonderland recently expanded to offer schooling for students up to 5th grade. Wonderland develops a Differentiated Education Plan for each student based on motor skills;creative, social and cognitive development; and acquired readiness skills. The school believes that this model helps students reach their full potential.

Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania
1530 Westerly Parkway, State College
www.yscp.org
Grades: K-8

Young Scholars focuses its education on global perspectives and welcomes native speakers of American English with an appreciation of world regions and students whose native language is not American English as they transition into the American educational system and culture. Students learn two languages aside from their mother language.

Preschools

Bellefonte Playschool—Faith Church
512 Hughes Street, Bellefonte
www.bellefontefaith.com

The Bellefonte Playschool offers a twice-a-week Three-Year-Old class, a Pre-K Basic that meets three days a week for 2.5 hours, and a Pre-K Extended that meets three days a week for five hours. Class size is limited to 12-14 students and the school schedule follows the same calendar as the Bellefonte Area School District. 

BONUS: Playschool offers a summer session that meets two days a week. 

Good Shepherd Lutheran Christian Preschool
851 North Science Park Road, State College
www.goodshepherdsc.org

Dianne Sefter, school director and teacher at Good Shepherd, says that the school “is excited to be one of the longest-running Christian preschools in State College.” 

She says, “Now in our 23rd year of ministry, the preschool offers five class choices for children ages 2 years 7 months up to 5 years old.” Parents can choose a flexible schedule from one to five days a week, plus afternoon Lunch Bunch on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons for 3-5 year olds. 

“Hands-on science experiments, cooking, musical activities and field trips are built into the curriculum alongside of stories from the Bible about God’s love for us,” Sefter says. “The staff, which has very few turnovers year to year, is mostly made up of mothers who have had children in the program. They meet regularly to plan fun pre-reading, writing, math, health, art and science activities for their students.” 

BONUS:  The huge playground and spacious classrooms allow children to do what they do best—PLAY! 

Jewish Community Council Nursery School (JCC)
620 East Hamilton Avenue, State College
www.jccnursery.org

The JCC is a parent-run school that welcomes families of all faiths. Students age 2 years, 7 months through 5 years are taught by play-based learning, which includes music, art, story time and monthly field trips. 

Park Forest Montessori School
1833 Park Forest Avenue, State College
www.parkforestmontessori.com

Park Forest Montessori offers a full 180 days of education for preschool and kindergarten. Morning and afternoon sessions are available for preschoolers with a full-day option for kindergarten. Weekly activities include music, French, science and Show and Tell.

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