Seneca Valley takes big step toward building new school

$45 million in contracts OK'd

July 29, 2020 Cranberry Local News

At a board meeting July 20, Seneca Valley School District directors awarded more than $45 million in contracts to build a new elementary school in Cranberry Township.

The school, which has been in the works for about six years, is expected to cost about $60.5 million to construct, with a maximum project cost of no more than roughly $78.7 million. Monday's contract awards comprise more than half of the total expected cost.

“I'm excited. This is getting closer to becoming a reality,” said board President Jim Nickel. “I look forward to a shovel in the ground and, some day, the cutting of a ribbon.”

Eric DiTullio, school board vice president, said the bids that came in for the new school were 29 percent under budget, presenting a significant cost savings to the district.

The largest contract award went to Rycon Construction for general construction in the amount of $31.4 million. Hranek Corp. received the second-largest contract at $5.98 million for HVAC construction, followed by Merit Electric at $5.93 million for electrical construction and Vrabel Plumbing at $3.05 million for plumbing and fire protection construction.

Rounding out the list are Northeast Interiors with a $1.66 million contract for architectural casework construction; a $743,500 award to 11400 Inc. for food service construction; and a $569,780 landscaping contract to CH&D.

Although directors voted down the use of geothermal heating and cooling on the property in October due to cost, one classroom in the facility will be heated and cooled by a geothermal heat pump, according to Randy Miller, director of buildings and grounds.

Geothermal climate control works by using the constant temperature of the earth beneath the surface to maintain temperature.

Miller described the heat pump as a learning opportunity for students, something director Fred Peterson lamented as a missed opportunity when the board initially voted down the system.

“We talked about having a building that would teach,” Peterson said. “I think that this provides a tremendous opportunity for our teachers to teach about alternate sources of energy.”

The new school, which will be built on Ehrman Road in Cranberry Township, will house kindergarten through sixth grade and will be built in a shape resembling the letter X.

In sum, the school is expected to contain about 1,400 students in the two wings divided by age.

The eventual Ehrman facility will supplant the aging school in Evans City, which accommodates, like the planned school, K-6 students.

Seneca Valley obtained a 150-acre property on Ehrman Road and plans on developing 60 of those acres, leaving 90 acres that mostly cannot be developed due to terrain.

While there is no absolute timetable for the construction of the building, board members felt optimistic about the future school.

“I'm excited for all the parents ... who will be sending kids to this new facility, and I'm excited for the kids because it's going to be fabulous,” Nickel said.