USC wants to add $149,000 Fab Lab to high school

Published Apr 8, 2014 at 9:23 am (Updated Apr 8, 2014 at 9:23 am)

After presenting a proposal March 24 to put iPads into the hands of every middle school student in Upper St. Clair School District, administrators on April 7 presented a proposal to school board members to create a Fab Lab, or fabrication laboratory, at the high school.

The first phase of the creation of the lab is estimated to cost $148,914, according to Frosina Cordisco, director of business and finance for the district.

Michael Ghilani, principal of the high school, told the school board “I think it’s a necessity. It’s important to think of it not as a luxury. It’s like a tech library in the high school,” he said, of the facility that would combine fields like engineering, design and fabrication.

He added that he thinks it will impact every student at the high school, and will bring them up-to-date on skills.

Ghilani visited Fab Labs in Cleveland, and said, “It integrated everything from English to social studies to art. Its reach as far as student impact is great,” he said.

A chart showing some of the needed elements of the proposed Fab Lab include a three dimensional printer, a laser engraver, a vinyl cutter, a three dimensional scanner and an assortment of design programs for computers.

Cordisco showed a chart indicating how the district might pay for the Fab Lab, including a STEAM (Science Technology Education Arts and Mathematics) grant that the district has already been awarded, as well as money from the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. She said a donor, who will be announced, has committed $50,000 to the Fab Lab. She said $7,250 is available from funds raised at the February Gala. Ghilani said he’s set a goal of $10,000 for the high school’s PTA to raise for the lab. Cordisco said the district’s Advancement Office could be asked to set a fundraising goal of about $41,000 in additional funds for the project.

In other business, April 7:

• Cordisco said the Pennsylvania Department of Education last week granted the exceptions the district had requested to raise taxes by as much as 0.783 mills for 2014-15. The district is seeking 0.333 mills worth of exceptions from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to raise taxes higher than the inflation rate of 2.1 percent, or 0.45 mills. To raise taxes higher than that, the school board would have to put it to a referendum.

• Cordisco said her proposed budget totals for 2014-15 have cut the expected deficit by about a half a million dollars since the numbers reported on March 10. She said the deficit on March 10 was $759,661 and today it is down to $242,408. She attributed the improved situation to several factors, including the addition of $12.5 million of new housing construction that she believes have been added to the tax roles since December, and a decision by the administration to eliminate five support staff positions through attrition. She said the new properties could mean an additional $275,000 in tax revenue for the district, and the district would save $175,000 if they do not replace those positions. O’Toole said, “going forward we need to try to do everything we can to not replace positions.”

• O’Toole said he is proposing that the school board approve May 23 and June 13 as snow make up days in the district. He said he is not proposing to make up the other two snow days. He said that his feedback from parents is that they are not in favor of extending the school year into the week of June 16.

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