Mt. Lebanon High School finishing renovations
When students return to Mt. Lebanon High School this year, they will walk into a new library, a science and engineering wing, and will eventually serve across the net on new tennis courts.
The $109 million in renovations finishing up this year are part of a “right-sizing” project that frees up new classroom space while centralizing arts and science in the school. The four-year project, district spokesperson Cissy Bowman said, has reduced space from 550 thousand square feet to 454 thousand. Some renovations from the project started in 2010 were open for use in 2013, like the pool and the main and auxiliary gymnasiums. Over 110 classrooms have been upgraded, renovated or retained as part of the project.
“This is where, finally, the curriculum is getting the resources and right kind of space it needs so students can fully engage with the material using the newest technology and collaborate in open, unencumbered classes,” she said.
“We were in some spaces that were pretty tight for 21st century learning,” Superintendent Tim Steinhauer said.
The technical education rooms and TV studio will be ready for the start of school on Sept. 2. Other spaces will open in October, and the large, new wings on the front and sides of the buildings will be completed in December, Bowman said. By the end of September, third floor classrooms and the new auditorium will be complete; all of construction is expected complete in November 2015.
“During design and planning, we were very conscious that we wanted to build spaces conducive to learning. You can learn anywhere, but we have spaces going in now where collaboration and communication – whether it's technical, or right across the room in person – allows teachers and students to get the most out of lessons,” Steinhauer said.
“The new classrooms have slanted ceilings to let more light in. And the science rooms allow lab work and presentations all in the same room,” Bowman said.
The overall design of the new additions, Steinhauer said, is to allow transit from building to building while promoting visibility of the class and studio activities.
“The high school was built in four major pieces since 1928. There was some disconnect with the abilities in each building. We wanted uniformity, and natural connection to each meeting space,” he said.
Aesthetics and productivity aren't the only improved aspects from clearer lines of sight. A comprehensive security upgrade has been worked into the school's design. “The safety plan includes more cameras, captured vestibules and making sure we have controlled exit and entry points,” Steinhauer said.
As for costs, the project was partly funded from the state education department's PlanCon program, which many districts across the state are awaiting reimbursement on. Mt. Lebanon is due $1.8 million this year and expects another $625,000 in 2015. State legislators only voted through a modest increase of $10 million to the program – $18 million is owed to Allegheny County schools alone. The program had been in a moratorium since 2012, and the 2014 state budget allows schools to resume applying for the program, likely sending new applications into a years-long backlog.