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Avonworth Primary Center's colorful concept aims to inspire creativity

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:07 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Scott Huffmyer, 7, gets a smile from his second-grade teacher, Jen Neiss, as he asks if there will be a prize for keeping one's desk clean on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. The second-grade classroom is part of the new Avonworth Primary Center in Ohio Township. Scott was told that keeping one's desk clean is its own prize.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Kindergarten teacher Jeff Dzubinski greets students arriving at the new Avonworth Primary Center on Tuesday morning, Aug. 26, 2014. The new building in Ohio Township is for students in kindergarten through second grade.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Students arrive on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, for school in the new Avonworth Primary Center. The building in Ohio Township is for students in kindergarten through second grades.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
First-grade teacher Kathy Reichart shows students where to put their belongings as they enter their classroom in the new Avonworth Primary Center on Tuesday morning, Aug. 26, 2014. The new building in Ohio Township is for students in kindergarten through second grades.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Paraprofessional Diane Fabian (left) and first-grade teacher Kathy Reichart watch their students settle into their classroom in the new Avonworth Primary Center on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Second-graders use a whiteboard to work on their morning lesson on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. The second-grade classroom is part of the new Avonworth Primary Center in Ohio Township.

Avonworth's new two-story primary center for kindergarten through second grade opened Monday and is easing overcrowding in the growing school district.

“Our elementary school was bursting at the seams,” Superintendent Thomas Ralston said. “We were at the point where we needed to use trailers as part of the classrooms. The primary center will give us flexibility and will open up space in the elementary school, as well.”

The $28.3 million facility built directly behind the district's elementary school on Roosevelt Road in Ohio Township includes a full-size gymnasium with a stage, art and music rooms, a computer lab, library, support services areas and a cafeteria.

“The primary center grade-level classrooms are based on a neighborhood concept, where seven classrooms are centered around a common large group instruction area,” said Dana Hackley, district spokeswoman.

About 400 students are enrolled in the new building, including the superintendent's youngest child, she said.

The capacity for the new school is 540 students. The Avonworth district serves students from Ohio and Kilbuck townships, plus Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights and Emsworth; total enrollment for 2013-14 was 1,545 students, up 15.56 percent from nine years ago, Hackley said.

A committee of teachers worked together to create a color scheme to give each “neighborhood” in the new primary school its own identity, Hackley said.

Color selections are evident in the large group areas. Kindergarten uses red, blue and yellow; first grade is blue, green and purple and second grade is yellow, orange and red.

Ralston said research was done on how color schemes engage students. “The design of the school encourages creativity,” he said. “Each grade level has color schemes to enhance learning and have their own identity.”

Henry Green, president of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, said color schemes in schools are important.

“Elementary school-aged children like bright colors such as red, yellow, orange and violet,” Green said. ‘Painting part of the walls with a bright accent color can attract a child's attention.”

Scott Miller, principal at the primary center, said teachers “were in the driver's seat in choosing design aspects like color. Then the architects came in and added their professional touch.”

Miller said, “The primary center was built with 5- to 8-year-old students in mind. Everything, even down to the fixtures, are all lowered. Everything is size-appropriate for young children.”

Funding for the school primarily came from a $25 million bond, and the district put $3.3 million of its savings into the project, Hackley said.

“The PTA has also generously donated $25,000 toward the purchase of a digital sign, for the entrance to both the Avonworth Elementary School and primary center,” she said.

Chasity Capasso is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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