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Franklin Regional seeks to create modern spaces for students

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, 9:36 p.m.
The Franklin Regional School Board.
File photo
The Franklin Regional School Board.

Architects are forging ahead with plans for the new Franklin Regional elementary campus — projected to cost more than $50 million — and promised to present regular progress updates at district school board meetings.

“We want everyone involved early so that if there are any changes to be made, we can get started on that,” said VEBH architect Dan Engen.

Scott Weinman of Murrysville asked the school board this week for a public presentation of its fiscal plan to pay for the new construction and renovation, “to help ease the fears that people have about taxes.”

Board President Larry Borland pointed out that as part of its budget process, the board and administration release three-year capital spending projections.

“We are all trying to get a more grounded set of numbers,” Borland said.

Weinman compared the district's elementary plans to what a prospective homeowner faces.

“I don't go and build a house unless I know how I'm going to pay for it, and it should be the same way with government,” he said. “For too long, government has spent and spent and spent, and now we're $20 trillion in debt and kicking the can down the road. That's not the responsible way to do things.”

Board member Gregg Neavin asked if Weinman was requesting transparency and open communication between the board and the public.

“That was why (fellow board member Jeremy) Samek and I were walking around knocking on doors four years ago,” Neavin said. “We wanted to move our meetings from the administration building to (the municipal council chambers), provide more chairs and provide access on Channel 19 so that all our neighbors can see what this board does.”

Superintendent Gennaro Piraino said the project's necessity sprung from a desire to create an optimal space in which to educate all students equally.

“Most (of our current buildings) were originally designed as high schools,” he said. “(Modern) types of spaces weren't a consideration when those buildings were being developed.”

Moving forward, he said, the design process will seek to ensure that classrooms “have room for reading specialists and counselors to do their work, and for occupational and physical therapy to happen as close to the classroom as possible.”

“From a fiscal and educational standpoint, this makes the most sense,” Piraino said.

Engen said general contractor Massaro Corp. was creating a preliminary construction schedule, which will be presented to the district's finance committee at a future meeting.

In addition to designing the new elementary and the renovations to Sloan Elementary School off Sardis Road as part of a future elementary campus, VEBH also plans to look below the surface.

“We're going to contract with a company to camera the waste lines leading to Sloan, to make sure that whatever we're doing on top is supported by what's underneath, especially things that are aged,” Engen said.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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