Make schools larger now to save in the future

Published Mar 5, 2014 at 5:29 am (Updated Feb 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm)

The news coming out of South Fayette School District is that of overcrowding at the high school. The building, which was constructed just a decade ago, has a capacity of 800 students. Currently, 757 are enrolled.

That number is going to continue to climb, with a projected student population of up to 1,094 by the year 2020, an increase of 16 percent.

Currently, the school board is addressing ways to deal with the overcrowding issue, including talks with architecture firm Eckles Architecture and construction company P.J. Dick – who both recently worked on the district’s new intermediate school – about a possible expansion to the building, despite the fact that the district’s debt is already fairly high.

But, South Fayette is not the only area school district with a growing student population that threatens to have the building bursting at the seams.

Peters Township High School currently has a student population of about 1,496 and a capacity of 1,500. The school underwent an extensive renovation in 2000.

Last year, we reported that at a school board meeting, a group of parents proposed building a whole new school because of the growing number of students.

That idea was quickly shot down, though the issue of a growing number of students at Peters remains.

Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair and Canon-McMillan have all renovated and expanded their high schools in recent years, due to rapidly increasing student numbers.

We are fortunate to be living in an area that is experiencing population growth. It is great for the local economy, and shows that the South Hills has the amenities – including great, award-winning school systems – that are attractive to residents and potential residents.

As the school districts move forward with their plans for expansion and renovation, we suggest that they build bigger than necessary right now. Perhaps forgo a few of the bells and whistles and put the funds into extra square footage and classrooms.

Because when feasibility studies are $15,000 – as is the case with South Fayette – spending a little more money now will save a lot of money in the future. Instead of renovating and expanding every 10 to 15 years, doesn’t every 30 seem like a better focus of time and taxpayer money?

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