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Westmoreland

Increasing school safety seen as crucial for Norwin facilities master plan

Joe Napsha
| Monday, March 12, 2018, 11:18 p.m.

Increasing safety and security of Norwin's school buildings — which could include modifying entrances, installing classroom doors and locks, creating places of refuge and security zones and constructing vestibules — should be a critical element of any updated master facilities plan, three architectural firms bidding to do the study told the Norwin School Board on Monday.

“Safety and security is a number one priority,” said Cassandra Renninger, an architect and principal of VEBH of Mt. Lebanon.

The school buildings have to be made safe, but students have to be able to learn and excel in the environment, said Hank Thacik, a principal of Axis Architecture of Monroe­ville.

“We're not designing prisons here,” Thacik said.

“The highest priority is safe and secure schools,” said Super­intendent William Kerr.

All of the entryways to the buildings need to be reviewed and updated, Kerr said.

Norwin's high school was designed before the tragic 1999 school shooting in Columbine, Colo., said Robert Perkins, board president.

When asked whether the updated master plan is a prelude to a building project, Perkins said they will not know until the study is conducted.

Of the three architectural firms that presented proposals to update the district's master facilities plan, Axis submitted the lowest bid at $16,800, plus an additional $1,750 to conduct a study of the district's demographics.

VEBH's fee for the master plan would be $39,500, plus $18,000 for the demographic study and $2,400 for an energy usage review.

HHSDR Inc. of Pittsburgh would charge $49,040 for the master plan, plus $18,000 for the demographic study.

Norwin, however, could contract with another firm to conduct the demographic study, Perkins said. That demographic study would project student enrollment and would take four to six months to complete.

All of the architectural firms would reimburse Norwin part of their fee if the school district proceeds with a “major project,” one that would be worth about $2 million, said Walt Lehman, Norwin's director of facilities and property services.

Noting the difference between the bid from Axis and the two other firms, Kerr said Axis was Norwin's architect for its previous building projects and the firm already knows what is in the buildings.

Norwin initially received proposals from 10 firms seeking to conduct the study, and the field was narrowed to three after initial interviews, Lehman said.

The school board could award a contract for the master facilities plan when it meets March 19. The study is projected to be completed in October or November.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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