Norwin will do more site tests on land at Stewartsville school
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Norwin school directors are dealing with a potential stability issue on the site for the proposed new $14.5 million Stewartsville Elementary School in North Huntingdon.
Concerns surfaced at the board meeting Monday night when director Dennis Rittenhouse questioned architect Hank Tkacik's request for board approval to allow the geo-technical engineering firm Garvin-Boward to do additional borings at a cost of $800.
"I thought we had enough borings. Didn't we go down to the mine the first time?" Mr. Rittenhouse asked.
"We did," Mr. Tkacik said. "But now we need to bore deeper."
Four sinkholes have been discovered near the old playground area during site preparation for the demolition of the former Stewartsville School, which is 40 years old and occupies the site.
Exterior demolition began Monday morning and will last about six weeks.
"There are four distinct depressions that the contractor found while clearing trees and brush," Superintendent Jack Boylan confirmed. "They were hidden. No one was aware they existed.
"One is creating some concern. It has sunk lower than the others and appears to be fairly deep. Ground slippage exists. We need to know how deep the hole goes and where it ends up.
"While concern exists, we don't feel we have reached the crisis stage. But the school district needs to know for sure what we're dealing with and how to fix it. The board feels it's worth spending $800 to find that out, so we can assure there is a solid foundation for the new building and [there are] no future problems."
Dr. Boylan does not foresee a delay in starting construction this spring of the new building, which is supposed to open for the start of the 2009-10 school year. About 437 Stewartsville students were moved to Scull Elementary in the Penglyn of section of Irwin.
The current Stewartsville School was built on pylons because of concerns of mining underneath. They will be used as the part of a foundation for the new building.
Dr. Boylan said another depression was discovered on brush- and tree-covered school district-owned property about 200 yards north, across heavily traveled Ward Drive. The hilly road accesses the sprawling 600-home Penn's Woods development that borders the school site.
The depression is on a line with those that now exist on the school site.
"At this point, we don't know if this depression is associated with the other," Dr. Boylan said. "It might be it was caused by mine slippage or water drainage. The borings should provide an answer."
That land is not a part of the Stewartsville School site.
About 30 people braved a snow squall and subfreezing temperatures to watch the start of the demolition of the old school from a district-designated "safe zone."
Also at the meeting Monday, about 20 parents appeared before the board to complain about girls' varsity soccer coach Dana Ferry and his assistant, Troy Shasko.
Dr. Boylan also acknowledged receipt of a 500-signature petition and several letters from parents to support the complaints.
Spokesman Dave Penska told directors the parents "wanted assurances" that their concerns about Mr. Ferry's coaching philosophy and methods would be reviewed and considered during contract renewal discussions.
It was the second time in a year the parents complained to the board about this issue.
"All concerns that were brought up last January and this year were not glazed over," Mr. Ferry said. "That's all I'm going to say.
Norwin finished the fall season with records of 15-7 overall, 12-2 in Section 1-AAA. The Knights were second in the section, but lost to North Hills, 2-1, in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
First Published January 17, 2008 6:09 am