When: School board meeting, Sept. 10.
What happened: Residents and board members reacted to plans to renovate the lower level of the middle school to accommodate sixth graders beginning in the 2021-22 school year. Prior to the meeting, board members had a private tour of the school with representatives of the district’s architect and construction management firm.
Estimated cost: The lower-level middle school project is estimated at $6 million. Gymnasiums also could be renovated at a cost of $590,000, including $200,000 in various upgrades such as flooring and $270,000 for air conditioning. While the lower-level project has been approved, the board still has time to decide on alternate proposals for the gymnasiums as well as a cafeteria expansion.
Learning space: New sixth grade classrooms would each measure 800 square feet. That is adequate for classes of about 26 students, said Kristy Moore, a Democratic candidate for school board whose daughter attends Mill Road Elementary. But it appears the science rooms are the same size. “And science labs are supposed to be a little bit larger for safety reasons,” said Moore, also a teacher in the Hempfield School District. She urged the board to ensure the science labs are large enough, noting the National Science Teaching Association recommends 45 square feet per student, whereas Pennsylvania code dictates between 25 and 30. Moore also asked the board to include full-day kindergarten, saying that studies show it’s worth the investment.
Air conditioning: Board member M. Caroline Lalvani encouraged the district to consider air conditioning in the gymnasiums.
Water problem: One alternate bid is replacing the roof and pavers outside the main middle school gym, estimated at $50,000. As it exists now, water gets into the base of an existing elevator there, which is needed to access that part of the lower level. Board President Terry Seiders asked whether that could be included in the base project.
Quality control: “Everything we’re trying to do now as part of this renovation is making sure we don’t come back and touch it again when we do the larger high school/middle school complex,” said board member Craig Hummer. Resident Paul Szuch asked the board to consider a process of quality control beyond the district’s architect. After the meeting, spokesman Troy Portser said construction manager Fidevia serves as the district’s advocate.