Architect describes progress in Norwin STEM Center feasibility study

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On Monday night, Norwin school directors heard a progress report on the feasibility study on the creation of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Innovation Center on the Norwin campus.

Superintendent William Kerr said in January that an estimated 75,000 STEM-related jobs are going unfilled in Pennsylvania because the workforce lacks the skills needed to do those jobs.

He said in January that 60 percent of the new jobs that will open this century will require skills possessed by only 20 percent of current workers, and envisions the STEM Center as a place where Norwin students could learn the math, science and technical skills needed to succeed in technical jobs in demand.

Originally proposed as a 22,000-some square-foot building equipped with state-of-the-art technology, math instruments, and science laboratories, the center could be built as part of an industry-school collaboration, school officials have said, with industry owners interested in training Norwin students with skills needed in their factories paying part of the cost.

On Monday night, Dwight Knouse of Hayes Large Architects, LLP, the firm doing the feasibility study, said after janitor closets and bathrooms were added to the plan, the building came out to around 36,010 square feet.

He outlined potential sources of funding for the center, including a state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant of $2,500,000; a matching grant of $2,500,000 from an unnamed Southwestern Pennsylvania foundation, and other sources for smaller grant amounts.

Mr. Knouse estimated the total cost of the project could be between $9,619,853 and $10,610,887.

He said building on the original site considered for the center (near the high school) would have been very expensive because of its steep grade.

The new site being considered for the center would be on an athletic field just west of the administration building, Mr. Knouse said.

“Our highest priority is to provide expanded learning opportunities to connect to real world experiences, identifying those high-demand occupations of the future,” Mr. Kerr said.

He said the feasibility study will be done in mid-December, and that a full presentation on it will be presented to the school board in January.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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