West Allegheny's Wilson School renovations to start in September

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Some West Allegheny students will be shifted to different spaces during the $13.68 million, 17-month renovation project starting this month at Wilson Elementary School in Findlay.

Superintendent John DiSanti said work will occur in areas emptied of students and staff.

“There will be times throughout the year when there will have to be some moving,” he said. “The big move will occur this summer when we take seven classrooms and move them to Donaldson.”

Starting in September, about 150 to 165 Wilson students will be shuttled to Donaldson Elementary School in North Fayette for the 2014-15 school year, Mr. DiSanti said.

Currently, four classrooms are being relocated within the Wilson school so that work can occur in the rear part of the building near the bus loop.

Starting March 26, Wilson was scheduled to close the bus loop and a parking lot, changing the patterns and procedures for parent pick-up and drop-off, according to a March 19 letter from principal Kathleen Sites.

“We are excited about the planned renovations, which will ultimately result in a wonderful, new learning environment for the students at Wilson,” Ms. Sites wrote to parents. “Please be assured that the safety and well-being of our students will be a primary concern throughout this process.”

The first days of school in 2014 and 2015 will occur later than usual--after Labor Day--to accommodate construction, Mr. DiSanti said.

West Allegheny plans to spend about $28.8 million for renovations at McKee Elementary in North Fayette and at Wilson Elementary, in the Imperial neighborhood. The K-5 schools were built in 1972 from the same set of plans.

Wilson renovations are expected to be complete in August 2015. The McKee project is scheduled to run from June 2015 to August 2016.

The Wilson plan includes infrastructure improvements, interior renovations and energy-efficient equipment.

Costs include $12.58 for construction and about $1.1 million for services such as design, engineering and project management.

West Allegheny school board members voted 9-0 on March 19 to award more than $12,586,399 million in contracts for Wilson, including a $6.46 million general construction contract to Gurtner Construction Co. Inc. of Pittsburgh.

Other contracts were for electrical work, plumbing, heating/ventilation/air conditioning, asbestos abatement, fire protection, food service equipment and telephone data construction.

The bids were about $300,000 under budget, Mr. DiSanti said.

“It’s a cost-effective design,” Mr. DiSanti said. “We tried to do as much as we could to modernize the building, but at the same time be sensitive to the taxpayers.”

The architect is Hayes Design Group of Collier, and the project management firm is Thomas & Williamson of Ross.

Wilson renovation plans include adding a 5,070-square-foot wing to house the district administrative offices, along with a room for school board meetings and teacher training programs.

When the wing is completed this August, the district will vacate the current administrative offices in Donaldson Elementary and convert the space to classrooms, Mr. DiSanti said.

Interior renovations will remove the open classrooms, which were popular in the 1970s, and create 23 private classrooms with lockable doors, said Kenneth Fibbi, the district’s building and grounds director.

“To make it a better learning environment is the ultimate goal,” Mr. Fibbi said.

The core of the school will have a 1,300-square-foot “collaboratory” for large-group instruction and hands-on science projects, including special programs on robotics, hydroponic gardening and computer programming.

“We are excited that we are able to have the traditional classrooms and at the same time allow for an area where there can be cooperation, collaboration and team teaching,” Mr. DiSanti said.

The library will be fully renovated to incorporate more technology, such as e-readers and wireless Internet, and to allow flexible programming space.

The current combined gymnasium/cafeteria will be split into separate facilities and updated, with the stage remaining in the gym and the cafeteria getting a full-service kitchen.

The art and music rooms will be renovated, with choral and instrumental instruction given separate spaces.

Skylights and other windows will be added throughout the building to provide more natural light, and LED lighting will be used throughout the school, Mr. Fibbi said.

The entire electrical and heating/ventilation/air conditioning systems will be upgraded for energy efficiency, he said.

Video cameras and other equipment will be installed to enhance security, he said.

External work will involve campus lighting, asphalt repairs and construction of a front entry tower with a red metal roof.

School board members in December approved a $20 million bond issue to help fund the elementary school renovations and are expected to consider a second bond issue in late 2015.

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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