Academy upgrades discussed in Woodland Hills

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Woodland Hills School District is considering a plan to partially renovate the building that houses the K-6 Woodland Hills Academy.

The administration and school board last year discussed a proposal to spend about $20 million to fully renovate the former Turtle Creek High School on Monroeville Avenue in Turtle Creek, but the board didn't support spending that much money.

"There's a lot of hesitation on the part of the board to incur more debt that is ultimately going to result in higher taxes, unless you can cut to make it up," substitute superintendent Alan Johnson said in an interview this week.

This year's plan would spend $12 million to $15 million on renovations to make the building safer, cleaner, more modern and handicapped-accessible.

"It was a compromise," Mr. Johnson said. The plan is only in the beginning stages; the renovations will have to be approved by the school board before work can begin. The upgrades would be funded out of $20 million remaining from a $25 million bond issue the district took out in 2005, Mr. Johnson said.

Some school board members and a handful of community members heard a proposal for the renovations last week in the academy's auditorium. Terry Thompson, an architect with the Foreman Group, said some parts of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, have "exceeded their life expectancy."

Because of the designation, no changes can be made to the outside of the building.

The school's front steps, which face Airbrake Avenue, are crumbling and need to be replaced, Mr. Thompson said, and some of the building's masonry needs to be touched up, but all of that will conform with the historic requirements.

"We have no [intention] to change the outside of the building," he said.

Accessibility issues would be remedied by adding an elevator outside the building with access to all floors of the school, he said.

Some light fixtures would be worked on but not replaced, he said, and some ceiling tiles would be replaced. Lockers would be repainted, and drinking fountains and bathrooms would be renovated to meet handicapped-accessibility standards.

The school's pool would be filled in and turned into a performance space for dance classes and other performance events, he said.

A security entrance would be created inside the main entrance to provide a locked vestibule, Mr. Thompson said. Visitors would be required to buzz in through the office to enter the school.

While the plan isn't a complete renovation, Mr. Johnson said, it would fix the glaring problems, such as the front steps.

"It's literally at the point where it's soon going to be a danger, and we'd have to consider closing it," he said.

Painting, minor renovations and updates to the building's mechanical, electrical and heating systems would bring the school another 20 to 30 years of life, Mr. Johnson said.

"This gives us the essentials," he said.

education - neigh_east

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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