Mars Middle School renovation phases outlined

February 6, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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ADAMS TWP — Students at Mars Middle School will remain in the building as work to renovate the 50-year-old structure proceeds this fall.

During a special meeting on the project Tuesday that attracted dozens of community members, John Hays, of Thomas & Williamson Program Management, said phases for the project have been created to allow students to stay in the building and for the impact on learning to be minimal.

The announcement comes after officials earlier this year considered two options that would have sent middle school students to either the high school or Centennial School at various points throughout the day. Those plans were a cause for concern for some parents, who said they worried their children's overall educational experience would be negatively affected.

Hays said the project team looked at different ways the $14.6 million project could be structured to maximize the available space, while still getting work completed. He said they were challenged to make sure that specialized classes, such as chorus and art, as well as locker rooms were available for use for the duration. Additionally, officials determined that 20 rooms needed to be available at a given time to ensure that all classes were accommodated. Because of that, six classrooms will be renovated in each phase, with corridor work taking place over the course of the project.

Work will begin at the end of the current school year, with the first phase including work to level the floor in the common area at the center of the building.

New flooring, lights and paint are also included, as is a new roof and HVAC work. Six specialty classrooms will also be completed during that time, and a new gym floor and kitchen serving area will be installed. A new entrance will also be utilized, with some entrances sealed off.

Phase two would tentatively begin Sept. 10, a day after students would return for the year under a proposed calendar being considered by the school board. Hays said work would begin at 3 p.m. once students are gone for the day. He said barricades will be put in place to keep students away from construction areas, and added that all employees will go through the same background checks as teachers.

Additionally, air testing will be completed throughout the project to make sure dust and debris are kept at a safe level.

Phase three is scheduled for Oct. 1 to 22, while Phase four is set for Oct. 22 to Nov. 12. The final phase would run from Nov. 12 to Dec. 12, with the six “swing-space” rooms that will serve as home to other classrooms during the first four phases being renovated. Finishing touches and walk-throughs will be conducted over Christmas break, Hays said.

Superintendent Wesley Shipley said the new schedule for work was introduced within the last week, and came after officials had created an extensive plan for transporting students to other schools during the day. He said the goal is to keep students in place, and to try to limit the number of times teachers will move classrooms within the building.

“We're also trying to phase it too, so that once they move once they're in their permanent place and don't have to move two or three times,” he said. “Some people will have to move more than once, but the hope is to minimize those moves.”

Board President Dayle Ferguson said that while things won't be “business as usual” at the school, she believes the project team has done a lot to ensure that learning is not negatively affected.

“It's going to be different, but I hope that you heard tonight a bunch of professional people who are committed to the education and the safety of your children through this process,” she said.

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