Mars officials working on plan for housing students during renovation

December 5, 2018 Cranberry Local News

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ADAMS TWP — A plan for housing and transitioning seventh- and eighth- grade students during an upcoming school renovation project is in the works, Mars School District officials said Tuesday.

During a special school board meeting, officials outlined work on the $14.6 million project on the 50-year-old middle school.

The board approved a plan and contractors for the project in November.

According to John Hays of Thomas & Williamson Program Management, the projected timeline would see design work completed March 29, with bids being sought soon after. Hays said bids would be awarded around April 19, with work beginning the day after school lets out for the year. The anticipated completion date is December 2019.

With students returning for the 2019-20 school year in late summer, Superintendent Wesley Shipley said much consideration must be given to how classes will continue as the renovation work continues.

Centennial option

Shipley said officials initially considered having this year's sixth-grade students stay at the Centennial School next year. However, he said there appears to be a lack of space to accommodate all teachers.

He added it would also create issues with a split gym class, and the Centennial and Middle schools run on different bell and bus schedules.

“There were a lot of negatives whenever we looked at that a little more closely,” he said.

High school option

Shipley said the discussion has now shifted toward having next year's seventh- grade class transition to the middle school while next year's eighth-graders would move to the high school. He said the high school's auditorium area has enough flexible space in and around it to accommodate the class size, and the school's auxiliary gymnasium would keep students separated from high schoolers. Additionally, bell and bus schedules would be the same.

Shipley acknowledged some teachers would still be moved around, and elective course curriculum would potentially need to be altered, as classroom spaces for courses like consumer science, home economics and shop cannot be easily duplicated.

However, he said those are nine-week courses, and the goal is to limit transitions as much as possible. Additionally, he said using the high school space allows for flexibility if the transition needs to remain in place longer than planned.

“We have two options, but one seems to be a lot better than another,” he said.

Shipley said discussions still need to be held to iron out details on cafeteria and food services, as well as how music and sports programming will be impacted.

Shipley said he expects a firm plan to be presented by early February.

Renovation plan

The renovation project, which is being paid for using existing district funds, is aimed at creating a more open learning environment in the middle school.

Shipley said the plan allows for a centralized Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) area, and groups seventh- and eighth-grade students together in learning “houses.”

Hays outlined other areas of focus, including the replacement of the roof. He noted the original roof is still in place, and has been covered with a new roof over the years. This creates issues finding and fixing leaks.

Additionally, Hays said 80 percent of the kitchen equipment is original and the project would completely replace it.

Also included are new windows, a new gym floor, a new water distribution system and electrical switchboard, and a new public address system.

In total, $11.8 million will go to construction, while the remaining $2.8 million will be used for architectural, engineering and kitchen design services. Hays said about $600,000 is built into the overall project budget for a contingency.

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