Penn Hills bringing in new school with a touch of nostalgia

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On Friday, there will be a chance to say goodbye to the old and to welcome the new in Penn Hills as the school district holds a closing ceremony for its old senior high school and a ribbon cutting on its new $58 million, 300,000-square-foot school.

"We welcome everyone to attend and help us pay respect to our past and open the doors to our future," district communications consultant Teresita Kolenchak said in a news release announcing the event.

Starting at 1 p.m. the public will be able to take what district officials call "a tour down memory lane" at the old high school, located on Garland Drive, and also tour the new school nearby on Collins Drive at the site of the former administration building.

At the old school, each floor will be decorated to highlight a decade in the history of the building, which opened in 1959, with music, photos and memorabilia on display. There will be a closing ceremony at 3:30 p.m. at which students in the high school ROTC program will lower the flag for the last time.

An official ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. at the new high school, which will remain open to the public until 7 p.m. Local dignitaries, former administrators and alumni are expected for the ceremonies.

Students in grades 9-12 were brought to the new building before their holiday break and given the chance to find their lockers and get acclimated to the building, Ms. Kolenchak said. Classes will start in the building next week.

Construction began on the new high school in December 2010. After students move into the new building, the old high school will be demolished and the area used to provide a new parking area and athletic fields. Money for the new high school comes from a $130 million bond issue floated in 2009 for the high school project and a new central elementary to replace the district's current three elementary schools.

The new senior high school was designed by Architectural Innovations, which used Native American culture and art as its design concept. The district's mascot is an Indian.

A written description from the architects describes the high school as resembling an American eagle, with academic "wings that stretch outward to the campus."

The building includes academic departmentalization for math, science, language arts, foreign languages, social studies and business departments. There are also instructional areas for music, art, physical education, consumer sciences and technology.

The main gymnasium can seat 1,900 and was designed to be flexible and with the ability to be divided into three courts. The auditorium will seat 1,000 and is equipped with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems.

The design of the building separates the academic wings from the large assembly areas so the academic wings can be secured on nights and weekends when the assembly areas will be used for community and school activities. The cafeteria is large enough to accommodate the approximately 1,400 students in three lunch periods. The school's new HVAC system is expected to save the district about 30 percent in energy costs.

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Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590.


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