Norwin revises plans for school district's STEM center

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Norwin superintendent William Kerr spoke about a revision of plans for the district’s science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — center at a school board workshop Monday.

Original plans for the building called for a $10.6 million free-standing technology center where students could learn the math and technological skills needed for jobs in partnerships with industries.

In a news release issued by the district, Mr. Kerr said Bob Carter Companies, the firm helping Norwin administrators develop fundraising strategies for the STEM center, said $3.5 million is a realistic fundraising goal for the greater community.

In response to that, administrators have come up with a new $6.5 million plan to build a STEM Innovation Center by reconfiguring and reusing some space at the high school and by adding onto the high school.

Jon Szish, district spokesman, said administrators are going to continue to work on covering the gap in funding during the next six to nine months.

"We are going to look at state and federal government [funding], as well as foundation funding and community fundraising, potential," he said in an email Tuesday.

In the news release, Mr. Kerr said the state Department of Education will allocate $500,000 for a regional science, technology, engineering and mathematics center serving sixth- through 12th-grade students and that state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, said Norwin will receive $500,000 from the 2014-15 state education budget.

According to the district’s news release, the design process for the STEM center will be curriculum-driven. The district hopes to create a science, technology and math-minded learning environment that focuses on entrepreneurial thinking, interdisciplinary thinking, project-based learning, and that will require students to apply what they learn by dealing with information to create new ideas and to solve real-world problems, Mr. Kerr wrote.

Some taxpayers had expressed concerns that they could later wind up paying higher taxes to maintain the STEM center.

“It is my sincere hope that the Norwin board of education and administration will remain optimistic and committed as we continue working together -- providing the best possible educational opportunities for our students and, equally important, being accountable in our fiduciary responsibilities to safeguard the taxpaying public through wise investments to improve public education,” Mr. Kerr said in the release.

Members of Hayes Large Architects, who drew up the original STEM center design, are expected to attend the Norwin school board meeting on Monday night to discuss the redesign of the center, Mr. Szish said.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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