Mt. Lebanon high school's new gym, natatorium, theater make debut

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More Mt. Lebanon residents are seeing tangible results of the $109 million high school renovation.

The main gymnasium and natatorium in the new athletic facility hosted events over the weekend, with a boys basketball tournament and the opening meet of swimming season. The first wrestling match was scheduled for Wednesday.

The renovated fine arts theater will host a percussion concert at 7 p.m. Friday. It will be preceded by a ribbon-cutting ceremony, superintendent Timothy Steinhauer announced during Monday's school board meeting.

Mr. Steinhauer also will conduct tours of the high school for alumni, some of whom may be in town for the holidays. The tours are at 10 a.m. Dec. 23 and 30, starting at Entrance C-28. For more information, contact Cissy Bowman, director of communications, at 412-344-2026 or

Monday's meeting included an update about the high school renovation by Tom Berkebile of P.J. Dick, construction manager for the project. He said final cleaning has started on the new science building, which the district plans to put into use in January for the school year's second semester.

The fifth floor of the 83-year-old "B" academic building also is targeted for occupancy in January, after which work will begin in earnest on the third and fourth floors, Mr. Berkebile said. The sixth floor was ready for classes at the start the school year, giving students, faculty and staff members a look at how the entire building eventually will appear.

Work also is proceeding on renovating the school's former gymnasium, which will become the new cafeteria, targeted to open for the 2014-15 academic year.

The overall project is 23 months into a 41-month timetable, with completion expected in mid-2015. So far, the district has spent $2.48 million in change orders for unanticipated work by contractors, representing 58 percent of the $4.28 million allocated for such contingencies.

On Monday, the school board approved $108,984 in change orders, including $26,675 for ductwork installation to improve temperature control in the fine arts theater, which tended to become too warm for comfort during some performances.

"We're hopeful that condition is now alleviated," Mr. Berkebile said.

In other business Monday:

• The board approved Kenneth D. Cross as new director of special education, effective March 10. He replaces Connie Lewis, who is retiring. His annual salary with Mt. Lebanon will be $96,000.

Mr. Cross is director of student services in Beaver Area School District and prior to that was director of special education for Burgettstown Area School District. He is an adjunct professor at Slippery Rock University, instructing an undergraduate special education course titled Positive Behavior Strategies.

He earned a master's in education, specializing in special education, from Slippery Rock, and a bachelor's in education from Clarionm University.

• Mr. Steinhauer announced that the district's preliminary 2014-15 budget will be available for inspection next week.

By state law, the district must approve the preliminary budget by Feb. 19 to be eligible for possible exceptions to Act 1 of 2006, the Taxpayer Relief Act, in setting the property tax rate for the coming year.

He explained that the early version of the spending plan represents "a projection subject to change," and that the board will have more information about several key variables prior to voting on a final budget in May.

Harry Funk, freelance writer:

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