SF offers a glimpse into new Intermediate School

Published Mar 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm (Updated Mar 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm)

With construction of its new intermediate school well underway, the South Fayette School District held an informational meeting for parents and community members to give an overview of the progress and features of the new school, which will be open for the 2013-14 school year.

About 50 people attended the March 12 meeting, in which Superintendent Dr. Bille Rondinelli and other school administrators talked about the new school that will be home to grades three, four and five. Rondinelli said a grand opening for the new school will tentatively be held at the end of July or beginning of August. The district also informed parents that volunteers will be needed to help give tours of the new school to students.

School board members Leonard Fornella and Alan Vezzi were also in attendance at the meeting. Fornella said the district sets “a vision of excellence” for all the schools, and that South Fayette is the fastest-growing district in Pennsylvania, percentage wise, which is the main reason a new school was needed on the more than 200-acre campus.

Fornella told those in attendance to remember one thing – that the building is bricks and mortar – but, “The important thing is what’s going to happen in education” inside the building.

Rondinelli added that the elementary school PTA parents are second-to-none and the parents’ support is the reason why the children are so successful in the classroom. The elementary PTA will be responsible for both the primary school and intermediate school.

Joe Brennan, project manager for P.J. Dick, the district’s construction management firm, gave an overview of the construction process of the school. He presented a slide show of photos starting with the ground breaking of the new school in November 2011 and ending with present-day photos that showed a more finished school, complete with tile in the restrooms and plumbing installed.

“The quality that goes in is second-to-none,” Brennan said.

Cassandra Renninger of Eckles Architecture talked about the layout of the inside of the school, as well as drop-off and pick-up areas. “I’m really excited for this to be completed and for you all to get in there and see it,” Renninger said. The school is three levels, with the main entrance on the middle level, and has enough capacity for about 1,000 students – the building was built with the capability for more classrooms to be added if needed in the future.

The entrance level will include a safe-schools entrance, administrative and nurse’s offices, a community room, gymnasium, stage area and academic classrooms. Each grade level will be on a different floor.

Renninger talked about the STEAM rooms – which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The new school will have three STEAM rooms, each with a different theme, which each grade level will use. The themes of the rooms are environmental, earth and space and robotics. Principal Greg Wensell said he would like students to be able to use a STEAM room every-other-day, and that he is “excited about the ‘A’ in STEAM,” because he likes the idea of infusing the arts into activities in the classroom.

The first floor of the building will include classrooms, the cafeteria and kitchen area and access to the playground. The playground will include a hard-surface area with four-square and hopscotch, swings and surge swings, a play structure, a rope climber and a basketball court.

The top floor of the building will include classrooms, the library/media center, art classroom and roof garden.

The new school will also have a sensory room for students who are on the autism spectrum. All services for special needs students that are included in the current school buildings will be duplicated in the new building, said Dr. Nanci Sullivan, pupil personnel director.

Rondinelli told folks in attendance that the district has been “fiscally responsible” and the project is within budget. District director of finance Brian Tony talked about how the district was able to borrow money at virtually no interest through the Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) program, which was part of the federal stimulus package. He said about 85 percent of the money borrowed for the project was interest free because it came from the QSCBs. Wensell talked about the schedule of the new school, saying that it will be on the same schedule as the elementary school is now. As far as busing is concerned, at the end of the day half of the buses will line up at the primary school and half at the intermediate school, and then the buses will switch so they are full. Wensell said he would like some volunteers to help out with the busing.

Administrators also talked about potential volunteer opportunities at the new school, including giving tours of the building to students, possible fundraising activities and the idea of starting a school store with items like T-shirts and water bottles with the school’s name on them.

“I’m excited about the educational opportunities,” like the STEAM room, said Diana Jordan. Her daughter will be in third grade next year at the new building.

Katie Logan, who has a daughter who will be in fifth grade next year, said she’s “excited she will be in an intermediate school,” rather than the middle school, because she felt that fifth grade should be an elementary-level grade.

“I’m excited they will get an extra year of reading support,” said Jayme Solomon, who has a son who will be attending the new school.

“I’m curious to see how it will be manifested and to see the logistics of how it will work out,” said Kelly Barish, whose daughter will be in the new school next year. “I’m excited and nervous.”

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